Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)MS94
TitleLetters of Joseph Gillott
Extent33 items
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DescriptionA small collection which largely comprises letters addressed to Joseph Gillott, a patron to a number of English artists in the mid-nineteenth century. A number of these letters relate to Joseph Gillott's acquisition of paintings. They also provide an insight into the life and work of a number of English artists during the mid-nineteenth century. Artists corresponding with Gillott include William Etty (1787-1849), Francis Danby (1793-1861), Thomas Danby (1818-1886), John Linnell (1792-1882) and Thomas Sidney Cooper (1803-1902). The collection also includes a small number of miscellaneous accounts dating back to 1711 which do not appear to be directly related to the remainder of the collection. These accounts were stored with Gillott's letters in the Barber Fine Art Library prior to the relocation of the collection to Special Collections in 1998.
Access ConditionsAccess to all registered researchers.
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue. A paper copy of this catalogue is also available for consultation at Special Collections.
Access StatusOpen
Creator NameGillott, Joseph, 1799-1872, pen manufacturer
Administrative HistoryJoseph Gillott was born in Sheffield in 1799 and followed his father into the cutlery trade. He began his career by forging and grinding the blades of pen-knives before moving to Birmingham in 1821 where he manufactured steel buckles and chains. He appears to have been successful and began his own business in a small house in Bread Street, near to Newhall Hill.

In 1823 Gillott married Maria Mitchell whose family were involved in the manufacture of pens, and became involved in their manufacture himself. He started out in a very small way selling pens at a shilling each to a firm of stationers but his business rapidly increased. Gillott took premises in Church Street and ultimately employed more than 400 people at his factory in Graham Street, in the Jewellery Quarter area of Birmingham. It is believed that the factory in Graham Street was the first factory in Birmingham to be lit by gas. In a newspaper advertisement printed in 1837 it was stated that his factory had produced some 36,000,000 pens during the previous year.

Gillott was said to be an enlightened employer who treated his workforce fairly and was a very successful businessman. He used his personal fortune to acquire a large collection of paintings and became a close friend of a number of English painters including J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851). Gillott built himself a large house in Westbourne Road, Edgbaston complete with a large picture gallery. Following his death on 5 January 1872, Gillott's collection of paintings were sold at auction for nearly £170,000 and his collection of violins for £4,000.

Sources: letters of Joseph Gillott; an account of the life of Joseph Gillott by Edward D. Johnson, held in the deposit file; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography website ( viewed 2 March 2011.
Custodial HistoryMaterial was found in the Barber Fine Art Library in April 1998. The original provenance of this deposit is unknown.
Archival NotePapers arranged and described by Mark Eccleston, March 2011.
Related MaterialThe Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections Department holds a copy of a 'Catalogue of the renowned collection of ancient and modern pictures and water-colour drawings of that well-known patron of art, Joseph Gillott', 1872 (shelfmark: r q PR 4839.K29). The Barber Institute of Fine Art Library at the University of Birmingham holds the 'Connoisseur Year Book' for 1958 which includes an article entitled 'Pens and Patronage: Some unpublished letters to Joseph Gillott' by Bernard Denvir, pp.71-77. A Catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summery contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue, or view the catalogue as a PDF file by clicking on the document field below. A paper copy is also available in the Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections Department.