Haslemere opticians honour Armistice centenary


Leightons Haslemere staff Katie Bedford, Stuart Roberts, manager Lynda Skeldon, area manager Matt Toffrey and Rachana Jani.

Staff at a 90-year-old Surrey opticians and hearing care company are commemorating the Armistice centenary through a ‘close-to-home’ connection.

Team members at Leightons in Wey Hill, Haslemere, sponsored a poppy cascade artwork at St Christopher’s Church opposite along with repairs to its flagpole and cross.

And in the run-up to Remembrance day itself, they have been working with the local town council to hang three very special wreaths in their doorway.

The move is in support of the council’s initiative to position personalised wreaths at addresses associated with all 145 names on local war memorials.

Leightons is on the ground floor of Clay House, where two young brothers whose names appear lived before going off to fight in the trenches more than a century ago.

Gunner Harold Walter Clapshaw, who had been a gardener, was killed in action in 1917 serving with the Royal Garrison Artillery. He was only 21years old.

Harold’s older brother, Henry John Clapshaw, was a labourer before joining the Royal Sussex Regiment where he was promoted from Private to Lance Corporal. Henry survived the war itself but died of bronchial pneumonia in 1919 aged 31.

The third wreath commemorates Wey Hill resident Private William Henry Oldershaw, a carter for a corn merchant, who was serving with the Royal Fusiliers when he was killed in action aged 33 in 1917.

Leightons, which was founded just ten years after the war in 1928, established its Haslemere branch in the late 1930s.

Current Branch Manager Lynda Skeldon said: “Both world wars have had such a huge local impact, even down to the building we occupy.

“As well as honouring the memories of the Clapshaws, we’ve been reflecting on the fact that during World War Two managers at Leightons, all of whom were men at that time, went off to fight leaving their wives to run the branches, including here in Haslemere.”

From writing love letters by candlelight in the trenches to today’s ultra-advanced eye tests, the Leighton team have also been researching the transformation in eye care over the past century.

Lynda said: “It’s amazing to think that in the First World War some servicemen lied about their vision and cheated eye exams to enlist.

“We know there was a unit in the army dedicated to making and repairing soldiers’ spectacles.

“Lenses then would have been made of glass not safety plastic as they are today. As a result, they would have broken easily and been difficult to replace.

“The frames would possibly be gold and horn rimmed or tortoiseshell from the hawksbill sea turtle.

“If this broke it could be repaired by splicing the shell back together – a finely skilled art.

“This is now illegal of course, and most frames today are made from cotton acetate which is easily able to be dyed many colours to imitate tortoiseshell.”

As well as eye care, Leightons has offered a dedicated hearing care service for the past 12 years and can assist service veterans through the process of applying for grants towards hearing aids via the Royal British Legion’s Veterans Hearing Fund.

Stuart Roberts, Leightons Hearing Aid Audiologist, said: “Due to the lack of awareness of noise-induced hearing loss until more recent times, successive generations of army, naval and air force service personnel had great problems with hearing in their later years, a further sacrifice given to their country during wartime.”

Organisers of Haslemere’s Remembrance activities have thanked the Leightons team for their support this year.

Ken Griffiths, who chairs the town’s centenary commemoration committee, said: “Without the support and contributions of businesses such as Leightons we simply couldn’t have staged our centenary commemorations.”

Leightons Chief Executive Ryan Leighton, grandson of company founder H. O. Leighton, said: “We’re proud to do our bit to support the Armistice commemorations in this centenary anniversary.

“Giving something back to the communities we serve is part of what makes our branches so special.”

Headquartered in Farnham, Surrey, Leightons Opticians and Hearing Care has 34 branches across the south east of England, and employs more than 220 people. The Haslemere branch is current rated 4.6 out of five on independent Google reviews. For more information, visit www.leightons.co.uk.

Media enquiries on this news release to Scott Sinclair on 01202 534487.