Gillows of Lancaster & London

Every antique furniture enthusiast has heard of the name Gillows, known for the very high standard of craftsmanship and unique design of the pieces of furniture they constructed. After completing his apprenticeship as a joiner and cabinet maker, Robert Gillow founded Gillows in 1731. His two sons Richard and Robert joined him in the business and expanded the firm to London to take advantage of the wealthier clientele to be found there. The firm was quickly recognized as one the finest cabinetmakers of their time. In the 1740s, Gillows chartered ships to import the superb old growth mahogany timbers found in the West Indies and Jamaica. Gillows was known not only for the use of the finest solid mahogany, but unusual veneers and painted designs such as japanning. They often made upholstered chairs, for which they  employed their own upholsterers. Not only did they produce their own designs but they would also supply pieces from the pattern books of Chippendale, Sheraton and Hepplewhite. They created unique pieces such as the trou-madame, a ladies version of a billiard table, and invented the extending telescopic dining table and the revolving top library table. The Davenport desk was one of their most popular designs, commissioned by a British navy Captain Davenport, a sort of compact campaign desk featuring a slanted lift top modeled after a school desk, set on a sideways chest of drawers, often supported by exaggerated cabriole legs. Gillows also made linen presses, chests of drawers, small occasional tables, even coffins. Towards the late Victorian era finances were becoming difficult with the new influx of mass produced furniture, and so they joined together with Waring of Liverpool. In 1903 Waring took over Gillows, and the brand Waring & Gillow was borne. The Waring & Gillow work is marked with a brass plate instead of stamping the piece and in the merger, their reputation for quality was diminished. They diversified again, outfitting luxury liners, and producing art deco furniture. Successive mergers and buyouts continued, when in 1962 the Lancaster workshops closed.
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