100 years of history
Thank you to Peter Watkins who stumbled across this 1920 edition of The Optician Magazine and, nestled in the pages, was a very early advert for Kirk Brothers.
RX work was the professional term for putting prescription lenses into frames and Sidney and Percy Kirk began their professional career mounting lenses before they started making frames.
In 1919, the ingenious brothers were looking for work after The War and came across an old sewing machine. They converted it into a lens cutter and they also used it to cut out buttons that they sold to the London haberdashers. Fortunately, the lenses sold better than the buttons and a hundred years later the Kirk family are still enjoying optics.
This is the earliest advert that we have seen. It confirms that by 1920 they already had London premises which were to be their professional home up until they were bombed out in the 1940’s. They already had a sophisticated logo and were using testimonials, so they appear pretty well-established, even at that time.
The brothers were service orientated and that shines through in their advert. Over the next decade they took over the upper floors of the building, which is still there although no longer an optician. On the ground floor they opened an optical store, on the second floor they would make and fit lenses and on the third floor they made frames.
At the time, London was buzzing with optical companies. There was a community and Sidney and Percy would help other companies establish themselves so that London would become a recognised centre of excellence. Oliver Goldsmith was a contemporary and they were friends with Max Wiseman who set up Algha Works on Fish Island back in 1932.
Above all, they loved to innovate and drive the industry forward. They were the first optical company to use motorbike couriers cutting down delivery times and young Percy, who ran the marketing department, would create books of advertising images that were free for optical companies to use to promote their businesses.
The next generation of Kirks followed in Sidney and Percy’s footsteps. In America, Kirk Optical was a celebrated supplier of optical machinery and all around London, opticians (they would never have called them stores) had the name Kirk over the door.
Sidney’s youngest son, Neville, the little chap with the curly blond hair, would have celebrated his 89th birthday this week. He had a practice in North London and in Chalfont St Giles in South Bucks. It was there that the Kirk & Kirk story began when Jason and Karen Kirk found a box of 1950s and ’60s frames that Sidney and Percy had designed.
The rest is history……..100 years of history.