In 1804 Gillows illustrated and patented their Imperial dining-table in which a variable number of loose leaves were fitted between fixed end leaves, a design which, within a few years, largely superceded most earlier ones. Initially such tables had an arrangement of as many as ten or twelve legs to support the central leaves when extended, but as the design was improved and the mechanism became more sturdy the centre legs were gradually removed. The form remained popular and another drawing of an improved version of the table by Ferguson & Co, one of the successors to the Gillow family business, is dated as late as 1849 (see Susan E. Stuart, Gillows of Lancaster and London 1730-1840, Woodbridge, 2008, vol.I, pp.243-246.
The present lot is closely related to a dining-table supplied by Gillows in 1813 to Stephen Tempest of Broughton Hall in Yorkshire at a cost of 50 gns (Margaret Jourdain, 'Late Georgian Dining-Tables', Country Life, 11 May 1951, p.1469, fig. 3). Another, attributed to Gillows was sold by The Lord Brownlow and The Trustees of the Brownlow Chattels Settlements, Belton House, Lincolnshire, Christie's, London, 30 April-2 May 1984, lot 92 (£10,800 including premium). Although no accounts relating to the Brownlow commission appear to have survived, there can be little doubt that much of the furniture at Belton, including this table, was supplied by Gillows. Another closely related example, almost certainly supplied by Gillows to Peter, 5th Earl Cowper (d.1836), for Panshanger, Hertfordshire was sold Christie's, London, 7 July 1994, lot 65 (£38,900 including premium).