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Norwich Opticians celebrates 70 years

Coleman's Opticians in St Augustine's Street before the refurbishment work. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Coleman's Opticians in St Augustine's Street before the refurbishment work. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2015

It dates back to the sixteenth century and has - for the last 70 years - housed one of the city’s most established firms, with its own unique history.

History of Coleman Opticians

In 1930 Lionel Coleman purchased De Carles Chemist. He then established the optical practice in an adjoining premises in 1945.

One of the first prescriptions made up was one from the Norfolk and Norwich Eye Infirmary for a Mrs Ivy Steward and included the warning that the patient should not pay more than 7/- (35p) for her glasses.

Peter Coleman - Lionel’s son - qualified as an optometrist in 1968.

By the 1970s the chemist side of the operation was declining but the optician business was thriving, leading Peter Coleman to close the former and move the latter into the larger premises.

His first optometrist student was Alison Fish, who qualified in 1979 and stayed with the practice. She bought it from Peter in 1998 with her husband Lester, who had joined the practice in 1981.

Peter retired in 2002 but did not completely stop testing until 2005

Following in Peter’s footsteps, Lester took on an optical student Helen Hills in 2000 and she bought the business from him at the start of 2012, with Katie Fenn who had worked for Lester since qualifying in 2004.

In 2002, the practice won the national Rodenstock Centre of Excellence award and for the past 11 years has been Rodenstock national Colormatic practice of the year.

Now, the premises on St Augustine’s Street housing Coleman Opticians is to undergo a major internal renovation.

The firm is carrying out the work to mark its anniversary this year. It was first bought by founder Lionel Coleman in 1930, but it was 15 years before he opened at optical practice.

Since then, the company has been handed down through a series of “buy outs” by staff who have trained and worked at the shop.

Co-owner Katie Fenn, who has worked at the opticians since 2004, said: “The front of the shop is being turned around for more space.

Coleman's Opticians' buildings in St Augustine's Street about 1960. Picture: SUBMITTEDColeman's Opticians' buildings in St Augustine's Street about 1960. Picture: SUBMITTED

“We’re living in fear because it’s an old building and we have to work around original beams. There is also a wall that can’t be taken down - that’s a huge problem.”

Mrs Fenn said: “We’ll have an area for children, more frames available for people and we’re having audiology being put in so we can do hearing tests. “It’s going to be a tough few weeks but it will be brilliant when it’s finished.”

The practice’s refit starts today and is expected to last the best part of a month. However, the doors will remain open during the work.

What are your memories of Coleman Opticians? Email

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