Bowden Opticians Celebrates its Centenary with over 100 years in the Optical Business.

Established in May 1921 by James Yardley Bowden, this coincided with the month my Father Jack Bowden was born.



Originally based at 26 Higher Market Street Farnworth, J,Y BOWDEN was a Chemist and Opticians supplying precsription medicines, specialist cough mixtures, along with all your photography needs and anything else medically related.

Mark’s Father Jack Bowden continued the tradition after qualifying at Manchester University with a degree in Pharmacy and later a diploma in Ophthalmic Optics.

Soon to follow in 1981, Mark Bowden qualified at Umist with a PHD in Ophthalmic Optics and joined the Family firm, Mark gained valuable experience as an Optician working for the Optical chain Miller and Santhouse, travelling around the North West as a Locum Optician.

Marks dream of setting up his own practice was realised in late 1990, based very close to his primary school of Markland Hill and close to his secondary School of Smithills Grammar.

The Practice was set up at 552 Chorley Old Road Bolton Lancashire BL1 6AB, and continues at this location to this day.


In 1997 Mark spotted an opportunity with the rise of the internet that this would be a great way to take the family business forward, the first website he created was called Hobbyspex, this addressed the need for specialist sports eyewear in the Snooker, fishing, cycling and shooting arenas.

Success did take its time but Mark remebers the first ever sale which happened to be a pair of rimless snooker glasses to a profesional snooker player in Hong Kong, bearing in mind this was before the Google days and before any Ecommerce, using old search engines such as Metacrawler and Alta vista.

Soon after Hobbyspex Marks next venture was which he started in 2002, it still runs to this day and is based over at the Wirral, run by John and Jan Styles employing around 25 staff, along with Jon stringer who is the web designer and the original designer that Mark employed from day one.

Mark then brought everything in house and now runs and designs the website

The website now sells all models of designer eyewear and specialist sports eyewear, often at a fraction of the high street prices.

Two original staff members assist Mark, Shelly Bullogh who does all the technical glazing work and Lynn Heaton who helps in the practice in all areas of dispensing.

Marks two employees have remained loyal from day one and started with Mark working for Jack Bowden back in 1981 at the Farnworth practice.

The business continues to grow to this day fuelled by the surge in online sales, to far flung place such as Mauritius, Australia and many other countries around the world.

Sadly Jack Bowden is no longer around to witness this explosive growth as he sadly died in June 2020, after spending just 1 week in his hundredth year. He was always fascinated to hear Mark explaing how the business had penetrated all these far flung places from a little town called Bolton in the North West of England.

Jack Bowden 1921-2020.

Here’s to the next 100 Years:):)