|Administrative History||Joseph 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 (www.oxforddnb.com) viewed 2 March 2011.
|Custodial History||Material was found in the Barber Fine Art Library in April 1998. The original provenance of this deposit is unknown.|