Celebrating Taank’s 20th Birthday

Flanders Optician, Taank 20th Birthday


Mill Road has a rich history of optical excellence. To celebrate our 20th birthday, we’re treating you to a trip down memory lane. Using street directories, local Cambridge history enthusiast Ian Bent, discovered that there’s been an optician on the street for more than 110 years. From Church & Flanders ‘chemist and druggist’ to modern-day Taank, he uncovered a cast of characters and events which culminates in the Taank team caring for families who have been visiting an optician here for three, even four, generations.

Step back in time

The year is 1884. You’re standing on the Lloyd’s Bank corner of what is now St. Barnabas Road and Mill Road, and, unsurprisingly, the view is quite different from the one you’d see today.

Look towards the railway line, and you’ll see a garden and a stretch of open land leading to two buildings at the far end (Beaconsfield Villas). Look diagonally across to Gwydir Street and spy a ‘chemist & druggist’ called Church & Flanders, so named after its proprietors Henry Church and Henry Flanders. Sight testing in the early 20th century was a simple affair, most often performed in a chemist’s shop.

Founded in 1881, the business was taken over by Flanders in 1895 and relocated to larger premises–familiar to you and me as the future site of Lloyds Bank–on the opposite side of Mill Road in 1898. It was here, in 1907, that Flanders first began operating under the official title of ‘chemist, druggist and optician’.

92a Mill Road

In 1910, Flanders expanded his scope of business to ‘chemist, dentist and optician’. What can we say? He was a busy man with a sizable practice to fill. And later that year, he installed his first telephone–number 371.

After establishing a sub-branch at 92a Mill Road, Lloyds Bank swapped premises with Flanders in 1927/8 (which coincided with the latter abandoning dentistry to focus on optometry). The building was flanked by new (and since, much loved) neighbours, Frederick Rogers and H.G., radio, electrical, and television engineer, which was sadly lost in a fire in the summer of 2019.

The practice may look very different now, and optometry has become far more reliant on technology in the last 142 years, but we feel very connected to our roots. We hang on to old-school values about personal service, firmly believing that robots of ChatGPT can’t replace human connection.

Keep your eyes open for Part 2, coming soon.