Robert Gillow - Encyclopedia

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ROBERT GILLOW (d. 1773), the founder at Lancaster of a distinguished firm of English cabinet-makers and furniture designers whose books begin in 1731. He was succeeded by his eldest son Richard (1734-1811), who after being educated at the Roman Catholic seminary at Douai was taken into partnership about 1757, when the firm became Gillow & Barton, and his younger sons Robert and Thomas, and the business was continued by his grandson Richard (1778-1866). In its early days the firm of Gillow were architects as well as cabinet-makers, and the first Richard Gillow designed the classical Custom House at Lancaster. In the middle of the 18th century the business was extended to London, and about 1761 premises were opened in Oxford Street on a site which was continuously occupied until 1906. For a long period the Gillows were the best-known makers of English furniture - Sheraton and Heppelwhite both designed for them, and replicas are still made of pieces from the drawings of Robert Adam. Between 1760 and 1770 they invented the original form of the billiard-table; they were the patentees (about 1800) of the telescopic dining-table which has long been universal in English houses; for a Captain Davenport they made, if they did not invent, the first writing-table of that name. Their vogue is indicated by references to them in the works of Jane Austen, Thackeray and the first Lord Lytton, and more recently in one of Gilbert and Sullivan's comic operas.

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