Supriya Ghosh

Lady's Workbox, 1808

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Lady's Workbox, 1808

The Lady's workbox in the Judges' Lodgings Museum, Lancaster, was made in 1808 in Lancaster by Gillows (trading as Robert Gillow and Brothers).


It is documented in the Gillow Estimate Sketchbooks in 1808. The recipient was Miss Elizabeth Gifford of Nerquis Hall. The workbox is decorated with 72 'rare and curious woods'. The craftsman was Francis Dowbiggin, son of Thomas Dowbiggin.


Gillows, also known as Gillow & Co., was a furniture making firm based in Lancaster and London. It was founded in Lancaster in about 1730 by Robert Gillow (1704-1772). The Robert Gillow of the box would be the founder's grandson, Robert [iii] Gillow, whose brothers George [ii] Gillow; and Richard [iii] Gillow joined the family firm. Gillows was owned by the family until 1814.

As a result of Lancaster's Atlantic triangular trade, much timber was imported from the Caribbean. However, the port was going into decline about the time the box was made. Lancaster was barred from taking part in the slave trade in 1799 and the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire in 1807.

The marquetry

The workbox is decorated with marquetry using 72 'rare and curious woods'. The interest is two fold, firstly it gives samples of 75 types of woods giving their 18th century names, and secondly it gives an insight into the woods then available in Lancaster.

Catalogue of the Specimens of Curious Woods (English and Foreign) Introduced in a W0RK- BOX, made for Miss GIFFARD, of Nerquis, by ROBERT GILLOW and BROTHERS, of Lancaster, in August, 1808.

Savacue Wood, Parama wood and Orange Wood were used to frame the samples


Lady's Workbox, 1808 Wikipedia

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