The Gillow Collection

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 A rare collection of documents relating to Robert Gillow of Lancaster and the Gillow family. 

The firm of Gillow's of Lancaster can be traced back to the luxury furniture and furnishings firm founded by Robert Gillow  (1704–72) in about 1730. Robert Gillow served an apprenticeship as a joiner. During the 1730s he began to exploit the lucrative West Indies trade 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 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.

The collection of documents mainly relate to Robert Gillow (1764-1838) was one of the three Gillow brothers (along with Richard and George) who became a partner in the company in 1785. By this time Gillow's was the biggest furniture company in Europe and in 1810 the firm’s accountant performed, in effect, a management buy- out from the three Gillow brothers, Robert, George and Richard, the grandsons of the founder.  That ended the Gillow family's direct involvement of the business.

Alexander Worswick, a banker and the tenant in the document is also referred to.  Worswick was Robert's cousin.  His father, Thomas, was a slave trader, and Robert's grandfather, Robert who established the company, was in partnership  with Thomas -  Carter, Worswick & Gillow links Robert Gillow (Snr) to Edward Carter (slave trader) and Thomas Worswick (slave trader and plantation owner). Because Gillow is the last name listed we can assume he was a sleeping partner who also provided the financial backing for the venture. Between 1754-1765 three quarters of the ships associated with the Gillow company for importing wood were slave trading vessels.

Ann Gillow nee Parker (her father was Louis Charles Hanwitz described as a Prussian gentleman) also features in the documents.  They married in 1797 and a pre marriage settlement between the two is amongst the documents.

The documents relate to property owned and rented by Robert and Ann Gillow and also a court dispute at the assizes involving both parties, Worswick and others over property, cottages, an orchard and other land.

Some are signed by Robert Gillow, another is signed by Richard Gillow, his brother and partner in the Gillow furniture business.

One of the documents refers to Richard Gillow and Leighton Hall which he purchased in 1822.

There are five documents in all, one spread over eight pages.


Provenance: By repute from the Gillow's offices when cleared in the 1950s and then a private collection

English, 18th and 19th century