Gillows of Lancaster and London was a unique firm of furniture makers. No other firm had a provincial manufacturing base which could produce furniture at a cheaper price for retail in the capital. This enabled the firm to make fine furniture in fashionable hardwoods imported into Lancaster from across the Atlantic. They could modify fashionable styles to suit either provincial or metropolitan customers.
Gillows left the largest and most comprehensive archive of business papers to have survived from any furniture maker. It covers the years 1728-1932 and includes sketch books and letter books. They had thousands of customers from the highest ranks of the nobility, to merchants, and the middle classes. From about 1788 some furniture was stamped ‘Gillow’ or ‘Gillows Lancaster’, or more rarely ‘Gillows London and Lancaster’. Other pieces can be identified by finding the design in the Estimate Sketch books. In 1813 the Gillow family sold the firm but its name survived in succeeding partnerships until the late-20th century.