The cupboard with two opening full length doors veneered in the finest flame mahogany and applied with serpentine astragals ending in scrolls and with corners elaborately carved with acanthus leaves, raised upon bracket feet; the cornice with blind fret ornament and dentil mouldings, surmounted by a finely carved gallery of open fret and a central cartouche flanked by turned finials
The founder of Gillows of Lancaster, Robert Gillows (1704-1772) rose from humble beginnings as a provincial joiner, and evolved into a consummate businessman following a pursuit of excellence throughout his life. Founding his business in 1730 he expanded his furniture making activities to include the direct import of quality West Indian timbers, especially the finest mahogany. His talents as both a cabinetmaker as well as innovative designer brought him early success, and, bringing his two sons, Richard and Robert, into the business, he expanded his Lancaster showroom to include another in London’s Oxford Street. The clientele now included the Government, the aristocracy and the burgeoning middle classes. His furniture had gained its reputation for excellence of workmanship and materials employed, and coupled with his insistence on being at the cutting edge of design kept the company to the fore throughout its one hundred and seventy year history from 1730 until its amalgamation with Messrs S.J. Waring in 1900. Throughout this period it was the largest manufactory of furniture in England. The fortuitous survival of the Gillows records in their Estimate Sketch Books show over 20,000 designs and are preserved in the City of Westminster Library. Furniture made by Gillows is to be found in Royal collections and museums throughout the world.
This cupboard appears to be the only example that retains its original carved and fretted gallery surmounting the cornice. Interestingly the blind fret on the cornice is also identical to a clothes press made by Gillows for Mr Freeman of Sedburgh, see Susan Stuart, Gillows of Lancaster and London 1730-1840, Antique Collectors’ Club, Suffolk, 2008, vol. 2, pl. 608, p. 62.
This outstanding example of Gillows’ work is linked with two other well-documented linen presses: ‘A very handsome mahogany wardrobe with Gothic cornice, ornamented doors, panelled back and suite of brass locks’ made for Richard Clowes, Esq. in 1772 and John Frances’s secretaire press from Rawcliffe Hall, which is discussed at considerable length in volume 2, pp. 54-60, of Susan E Stuart’s ‘Gillows of Lancaster and London 1730-1840’.