Importing and Exporting High Quality for Centuries

Regency Satin Wood Sofa TableRobert Gillows, born in 1704, together with his children, built one of the largest furniture manufacturing empires in history, which lasted well over two centuries.  He became the first importer of fine exotic woods to England and his firm has been credited with many innovations, such as, various billiards tables and the extension dining table.  

Gillows began work as an apprentice joiner in 1718 and in 1728 began a partnership with another cabinet maker George Haresnape.  Robert Gillows had several sons. However, Richard and Robert, were the two who joined him in business and helped build the company and expand to showrooms in London.

The Gillows firm chose to manufacture outside of London in Lancaster. Allegedly, because Robert Gillows’ father was imprisoned there for his part during the Jacobite rebellion and he simply wanted to be close.

Part of their success came from trade with the West Indies. This came about by his marriage in 1730. Roberts’ wife’s family had significant trade relations and connections within the West Indies. Within a short while, Gillows began chartering ships importing mahogany and other exotic woods while exporting furniture that he made. The firm was the primary importer of fine woods for the region and enjoyed great success.

Gillows of Lancaster supplied high quality furniture to the middle and upper class as well as the uber wealthy. They produced a substantial amount of furniture for museums, presidents and luxury liners as well as British Royalty. They furnished buildings all over the world, from Russia, to Australia and the United States.

Gillows was well known for high quality, great woods, simple lines and an extensive offering. In addition to working with solid woods, they made veneered and painted furniture as well and often used japanning to imitate inlays.

Having manufactured furniture for so long, from the 1730’s through the 20th century, they covered designs of George I, Queen Ann, George II, George III, Regency and William IV. They endured and outlasted the more famous makers, such as Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton.

There are many museums throughout the world showcasing Gillows work and we are delighted to hold various items, attributed to Gillows, in our inventory.


Gillows Sofa Table