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6.


Gillows Metamorphic Library Chairs


The Lancaster based firm of Gillow had been in business for more than seventy years when Morgan & Sanders started trading in 1801. During the latter half of the eighteenth century Robert Gillow and his son Richard had already established an international trading company importing timber from the West Indies and exporting furniture to continental Europe and the American Colonies. The firm had also been credited with perfecting the design and construction of Billiard and Troumadame tables56. In 1765 Gillows opened up a branch of their business in London where they widened their contact base and continued to develop a reputation for good quality furniture. By the end of the eighteenth century Robert Gillow was dead and his first son Richard was considering retirement, but the firm had already been handed over to the next generation. Gillows continued to manufacture most of their furniture in Lancaster to take advantage of their existing infrastructure and the skills they had already established. The northern manufacturing base enabled them to benefit from the lower costs of production and this gave them a competitive edge in the metropolis. In May 1800, Richard Gillow II patented a design for „Improvements in Methods of Constructing Dining or Other Tables‟. The design was based on a system of „sliders constructed of wood or metal‟ that allowed additional leaves or flaps to be added to the table. The idea proved to be a huge success and it established Richard‟s reputation as an innovative and inspirational leader. But during the nineteenth century trade with the West Indies was in decline and the regional business suffered. In 1813 Richard Gillow II and his two brothers retired and the firm entered a period of considerable change involving several new partners. Gillows continued to produce high quality furniture well into the nineteenth century and, in 1897, they merged with Waring of Liverpool to become Waring & Gillow.


Gillows had been making multi-purpose furniture since the middle of the eighteenth century. In a Sketch Book dated 1788, Gillows recorded the design for a „Buro Bedstead‟. From the outside the bureau looks like any other, complete with writing slope, drawers and handles, but the sham fittings hide a fold-out bed frame. It was customary, during the eighteenth century for reception rooms to be occasionally used as lodging rooms (Stuart, 2008, p. 346, vol. I). Concealed beds were known as „shut-up‟ or „turn-up‟ beds. But, despite the bureau-bed example, a wider analysis of


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