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William Gillett started as a clockmaker in Hadlow, Kent. He moved to Clerkenwell, London, and in 1844 to Croydon, Surrey, where he was later (circa1854) joined by Charles Bland.

The firm traded as Gillett & Bland from about 1853 until about 1879 manufacturing turret clocks, regular clocks, and clock cases . The Company was also called Gillett & Bland Steam Clock Factory. In 1877, Arthur Johnston bought a partnership and the name was changed from about 1879 to 1884 to Gillett Bland & Co. From 1884 until 1887 it became Gillett & Co. (possibly on the death of Charles Bland) and thereafter Gillett & Johnston of Croydon. Gillett is reputed to have emigrated to America around the late1880's and been joined by his son in 1902. The Gillett & Johnston name remained until 1925 when the y became a limited company known as The Croydon Bell Foundry Ltd., but in 1930 the name changed to Gillett & Johnston Ltd.

The firm originally bought in the bells from other foundries but began to cast bells at Croydon from 1877 and the supply of carillons and carillon machines increased still further when Cyril Johnston (1884-1950), son of Arthur, joined the firm on the death of his father in 1916. By 1886 nearly 100 hands were employed by the firm which obtained the raw iron, copper and tin so that the whole process was completed at the Croydon site.

After the death of Cyril in 1950 the bell foundry diminished and was closed 7 years later. The business went into receivership in 1958 and was acquired by Synchronome and then by Cyril Coombes (died 1972) and his son Stephen but became independent again in 1965 and eventually re-established the Gillett & Johnston name which continues today. As late as 1988, the company still made turret clocks if required, and undertook overhaul and maintenance.

Examples of Gillett & Bland turret clocks are still in the Town Hall at Manchester, UK., Hampton Court, London, and can be found in many far flung places such as Post Office, East Angus, Quebec, Canada, India, Durban, South Africa, Jerusalem and Sydney, Australia

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