[By repute] The Earls of Coventry, Croome Court, Worcestershire.
GILLOWS OF LANCASTER AND LONDON: PRE-EMINENT CABINET-MAKERS
'Our wood & our workmen we flatter ourselves are as good if not superior to any in the kingdom', Richard Gillow, 1797
The name 'Gillow' has been associated with the craft of furniture-making from the reign of George II until the present day. In recent years, Gillows furniture has been increasingly prized for its well-chosen timbers and fine quality of craftsmanship, as well represented by the following lots. Furniture produced in the latter part of the eighteenth century shows a predilection for elegant forms, while finely figured mahogany and robust design characterize furniture of the early nineteenth century.
Gillows was established by Robert Gillow in the town of Lancaster in around 1730. The firm opened a branch in London in 1769, and remained under family supervision until 1813 when the family sold the business. The partnership who bought the firm and retained the trading name of Gillows consisted of James William Ferguson, Henry (and possibly Edward) Whiteside and Leonard Redman or Redmayne. The latter appears to have controlled the Lancaster-based side of the business, while the firm in London, based in various Oxford Street addresses, was directed by the two other partners. Prior to buying into the business, both James William Ferguson and Henry Whiteside had served apprenticeships with Gillows. The firm continued to trade under various names until Waring and Gillow closed shop in the 1960s.
Gillows never published a book of furniture pattern designs under their name, although they were markedly influenced by those issued by major competitors such as Chippendale and Mayhew and Ince, as well as George Hepplewhite. By the third quarter of the 18th century they were one of the principal cabinet-making firms in London, producing a wide range of practical furniture for the gentry and emerging middle class and possibly even royalty. 'The firm's maxim was 'design follows function' wrote Susan Stuart in her comprehensive two-volume book on the firm (Gillows of Lancaster and London 1730-1840, 2008). Extensive private archives covering the years 1784-1899, the so-called Estimate Sketch Books, record over twenty thousand pieces of furniture with details on labor and material costs providing valuable information and insight into the firm.
The practice of stamping furniture began in around 1770. Although used selectively, a pair of card tables from Croome Court (lot 105) and a reading armchair from Tibberton Court (lot 110) bear their stamp. Pencil or ink inscriptions also appear on early 19th century pieces signed by the tradesman responsible for the article. One such pencil inscription appears on a Wellington chest in the sale (lot 107). Few pieces of furniture made by the firm prior to 1780 have been securely identified.