The Gillow Family
Gillows of Lancaster and London
The firm of Gillow of Lancaster can be traced back to the luxury furniture and furnishings firm founded by Robert Gillow (1704–1772) in about 1730. Robert Gillow served an apprenticeship as a joiner. During the 1730’s he began to exploit the lucrative West Indies trade. He initially sourced quality mahogany from the slave ships that came to Lancaster. The mahogany was siump0ly used as ballast for the vessels. Later he started exporting mahogany furniture and importing rum and sugar. Following his death in 1772, the business was continued by his two sons, Richard (1734–1811) and Robert (1745–93). In 1764 a London branch of Gillow’s was established in London at 176 Oxford Road, now Oxford Street, by Thomas Gillow and William Taylor. The firm rapidly established a reputation for supplying high-quality furniture to the richest families in the country and also designed and manufactured furniture for the Houses of Parliament – Westminster, London. Local employees referred to the company as ‘Gill-uz’ in their local dialect.
Waring and Gillow
During the final years of the 19th century the company ‘ran into’ financial difficulty and from 1897 began a ‘loose’ financial arrangement with Waring of Liverpool, an arrangement legally ratified by the establishment of Waring & Gillow in 1903. Waring’s of Liverpool was founded by John Waring, who arrived in the city from Belfast in 1835 and established a wholesale cabinet making business. He was succeeded by his son Samuel James Waring who rapidly expanded the business during the 1880s, furnishing hotels and public buildings throughout Europe. He also founded Waring-White Building Company which built the Liverpool Corn Exchange, Selfridge’s department store, London and the Ritz Hotel, London. Samuel James’s son and namesake Samuel James Waring (1860-1940) continued the family business and was elevated to the peerage as Baron Waring in 1922.
In 1932 the company was registered as Waring & Gillow (1932) Ltd and the fiche attached to the furniture claimed that their Lancaster factory was opened in 1695.
Gillow’s had established a reputation for the outfitting of luxury yachts and liners, including the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert, liners Lusitania, Heliopolis and Cairo, Queen Mary (1936) and Queen Elizabeth (1940) for Cunard. During the First World War the Lancaster factory was ‘turned over’ to war production, making ammunition chests for the Navy and propellers for De Havilland DH9 aircraft. They also established a large tent-manufacturing facility of 8,000 workers on the now closed former exhibition site at White City (the former Machinery Hall), London.
They also made gas masks and trench covers from this site. During this time it was also at the White City site that the Workers Union first gained recognition after a four-day strike mainly by women. The company also manufactured ammunition belts for use with machine guns, nosebags for horses and protective clothing for use during gas attacks.
During World War II the factory in Cambridge Grove, Hammersmith, London, produced parts for gliders and Mosquito aircraft, while kit-bags, tents and camouflage nets were made by the upholstery department.
However, the business began to decline and the Lancaster workshops closed on 31 March 1962 to provide, two years later, the first home of the newly founded University of Lancaster. In 1980 the company of Waring and Gillow merged with the cabinet-making firm of Maple & Co., to become Maple, Waring and Gillow. Subsequently in merged as part of Allied Maples Group Ltd, which includes Allied Carpets.
Information Sourced from Wikipedia and adapted April 2018.
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The Gillow family of cabinet makers and upholsters came to prominence with Richard Gillow (1733 – 1811), the son of Robert Gillow, founder of the firm. Gillow’s reputation as one of the leading British cabinet making firms of the 18th and 19th centuries was established by contributions from some ten members of the family over three generations.