Surgical Spectacles

The story behind this simple set of spectacles began 100 years ago with one British man living in the USA.

Surgical Spectacles

Keen surgical spectacles with mask

Successful entrepreneur Art Hadley was constantly venturing across the world from his base at Rhode Island, on the hunt for business opportunities.  It was this search that would eventually bring him back to his country of origin.  Hadley discovered that there was a dire shortage of metal spectacle frame factories across the UK.  Taking advantage of the gaping hole in the British market, he moved swiftly, setting up the Hadley Company Ltd. in 1925.  After additional buildings and extensions were erected, the production of spectacles began with full force at the company’s Portsmouth Road premises on the borders of Thames Ditton and Surbiton.

With the establishment of other Hadley spectacle factories at Hatton Garden and Manchester, the factory on Portsmouth Road soon found itself at the centre of a national production line.  Hadley Company Ltd. produced a huge variety of spectacles for all manner of occasions, including tinted sunglasses and goggles with leather surrounds.  The pair of glasses pictured above were worn for a particularly crucial purpose – surgery.  The plastic ‘keen mask’ attached to the frame on two metal struts is akin to a modern-day disposable medical face mask.  It could be moved down over the surgeon’s mouth when and lifted up when required, ensuring both the surgeon’s mouth and the patient were protected during the procedure.

As the spectre of the Second World War loomed large in 1939, the Hadley Company Ltd. reached its peak.  The Portsmouth Road factory began playing a vital role making Army and Air Force spectacles, as well as smaller aircraft parts.  By 1949, and the advent of mass production, the company had an enormous 500-strong workforce.

In 1986, Hadley Company Ltd. met its end when it was taken over by Suter plc, who then sold on to British American Optical Company Ltd. in December of the same year.  Despite the end of Hadley’s, luckily this unusual and rare pair of spectacles found its way to Elmbridge Museum in the car of the assistant to Hadley’s Managing Director.  Tasked with disposing of the company’s extensive archive of glasses, she thought this pair amongst many others too unique to throw away.

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