Waring and Gillow

Plague reading - These premisis were until 1882 the offices and workshops of Gillow and Co. cabinet MakersThe founding father of Waring and Gillow was Robert Gillow, who came to Lancaster to start a career as a cabinet maker. His father was allegedly imprisoned in Lancaster Castle for his part in the Jacobite rebellion, and Robert Gillow may have remained in Lancaster in order to be close to him during his detention.

A photograph showing location of the early premisis of Waring and GillowRobert Gillow’s fascination for carpentry began during a stint as a ship’s carpenter. He traveled to the West Indies and brought back one of the first recorded shipments of mahogany into the UK. Supplies of mahogany (supplemented with copious amounts of rum) soon began to flow between Gillow and his West Indian suppliers and in return, Gillow exported some of the finest furniture ever crafted. He was later joined by this three sons and the business expanded rapidly. In 1881, the Gillow’s moved to North Road and developed a factory in the St Leonardgate area. They were previously based at Castle Hill.

A photograph of a lady's writing deskThis is a “Bonheur de Jour” or a lady’s writing desk. Dated at around 1794, the desk was crafted by Robert Briscoe for Gillows. It comprises of satinwood panels with tulip and ebony woods. The Lancaster City museum houses this particular desk in addition to a long case clock. The judges building which is opposite the old Gillow’s factory holds a more comprehensive range of Gillows furniture.

In addition to furniture, the Gillow’s were praised in opera and fiction and they are also accorded with the invention of the billiards table. They produced a substantial amount of furniture for museums, presidents and luxury ocean liners. Queen Victoria also commissioned a number of pieces from the company. During the First World War, they fashioned Navy munitions boxes from teak and DH9 aeroplane wings and propellers. Mosquito wooded aeroplanes followed in the Second World War. Unfortunately in 1961, the firm was taken over and closed down, although Gillow’s lives on today as part of Maples Stores plc.

St. Leonard's HouseThe factory at St Leonardgate was later bought by John Peter Ltd of Leeds and then purchased by the university in 1964 for £90,000 as temporary means of accommodation until 1966. Two hundred thousand pounds was spent converting, equipping and furnishing the building although the plans were nearly ruined when an explosion ripped through the ground floor of the old factory in 1964.

The entrance to Liquid NightclubThe old showroom of the Gillow’s furniture factory is now Liquid nightclub. The name “Gillows” is clearly visible above the sign of the nightclub. The rest of the building extends further along the street and is occupied, fittingly enough, by a furniture showroom!

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