'From the provinces to the capital: Gillows of Lancaster and London'
Gillows were cabinet makers operating in Lancaster from 1731 and London from 1769, later merging with Liverpudlian firm Waring, and operating successfully under the name ‘Waring and Gillow’. A number of detailed records of the firm’s furniture designs, sales and client base survive – just under half from before 1830. In spite of the quality of the surviving records, Gillows have proved problematic for furniture historians. They opted not to publish a Pattern Book, unlike their eighteenth-century compatriots, Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton, and this has led to a tag being applied to the firm, namely that they were ‘followers and not leaders in fashion’.
This talk will set aside the question of ‘fashion’ and instead explore the way in which Gillows operated their business between their Lancaster and London bases, focusing on the period 1760 to 1800. What really comes to the fore when examining the Gillows’ archive is how they engaged with their clients, moving between the provinces and the capital in order to offer the best and most suitable service. Utilising a number of letters written by the firm, and the accompanying designs, the talk will consider the experience of buying furniture in the eighteenth-century, analysing Gillows’ relationships with those who purchased their wares.
Dr Eleanor Quince is Principal Teaching Fellow in Modern British History at the University of Southampton. Her research centres on the history of the object, in particular how it is created and consumed and then displayed in cultural venues including museums and country houses. She wrote her PhD on the furniture-making firm of Gillows, considering the ways in which the firm and their furniture have been presented to us. Eleanor was co-investigator on a major AHRC-funded research project which explored the history of the antiques trade in Britain in the 20th century (2013-2016). She is currently working on a co-authored volume based on findings from that project and is co-investigator in a follow-on AHRC-funded project, 'Antiques Dealers, Art Markets and Museums' (2019-2020).
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