The firm of Gillows of Lancaster can be traced back to Robert Gillow (1704-72) in 1730, having served an apprenticeship as a joiner. During the 1730's 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 Gillows 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.
During the final years of the 19th century the company ran into financial difficulty and from 1897 began a loose financial arrangement with Waring of Liverpool, an arrangement legally ratified by the establishment of Waring and Gillow in 1903. Warings of Liverpool were founded by John Waring, who arrived in the city from Belfast in 1835 and established a wholesale cabinet making business. He was succeeded by his son Samuel James Waring who rapidly expanded the business during the 1880's, furnishing hotels and public buildings throughout Europe. He also founded Waring-White Building Company which built the Liverpool Corn Exchange, Selfridge's department store and the Ritz Hotel.
Gillows had established a reputation for the outfitting of luxury yachts and liners, including the Royal Yacht "Victoria and Albert", liners "Lusitania", "Heliopolis" and "Cairo", RMS "Queen Mary" (1934) and "Queen Elizabeth" (1946) for Cunard. During the First World War the Lancaster factory was turned over to war production, making ammunition chests for the Navy and propellers for De Havilland DH9 aircraft and during World War Two produced parts for gliders and the Mosquito aircraft, while kit-bags, tents and camouflage nets were made by the upholstery department. However, the business of the firm began to decline and the Lancaster workshops closed on 31 March 1962. In 1980 Waring and Gillow joined with the cabinet making firm Maple & Co, to become Maple, Waring and Gillow, subsequently part of Allied Maples Group Ltd, which includes Allied Carpets.
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