How It All Began For James Gilbert And Son Established In 1881}

How it all Began for James Gilbert and Son – Established in 1881


Giles Blunden

James Gilbert and Son was founded in 1881 on its current site in Acton, as a manufacturer of sieves and safety grilles for the machinery working in the gravel pits on the opposite side of the Uxbridge Road. The pits, once they became devoid of gravel were then filed in, concreted over and built upon to create the Vale Estate, intersected with optimistically arboreal names like Ash Grove and Beech Drive though some might agree that simply retaining the name ‘the pits’ would probably have been more appropriate.

James Gilbert and Son had by then established itself as a reliable manufacturer and purveyor of hand made wire work for industrial purposes and so despite the disappearance of the gravel works and with it the reason for its nascence, it persisted. More surprising perhaps is that it persisted in its original location around which developed a retail community, not the traditional neighbours of a metal works. Somehow however this strange curiosity of a business has stood firm through world wars and credit crunches and refused to be relocated to predictable soulless industrial estate of which the local area has plenty. Not that the environs of the Vale are without their own special brand of soullessness.

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Now flanked by a post-office/mini-market and on the other side a pharmacy, both resplendent in the latest lurid plastic generic shop-fronts James Gilbert and Son is resilient and unapologetic in its unchanging Victorian fascia that seems to grimace and ask, are you sure you want to come in here? to those who approach the door. Indeed even those who dare to peer through the glass gain little further clue of what goes on inside from the dimly lit random selection of dusty architectural oddments. Only the occasional glimmer of a shiny freshly polished surface belies the fact that deeper within the steady beating heart of metal being honed against metal is still pumping out its wares to those who know.

How those wares have changed. Though much of the original machinery is still in place and not only kept in good order but used on a daily basis, the scope of its produce has changed significantly over time and expanded dramatically in recent years. As the demand for hand made sieves and machinery guards subsided the company began exploring a relationship with more decorative products for domestic use. Hanging baskets, jardinires, aviaries, and a wide range of curly metal objects were made for the house and garden all decorated with the trademark sconces and scrolls which became standard on such products in this era.

Eventually with the invention of injection moulding and plastics and mass produced imports from around the world, James Gilbert and Son was forced to find its niche which came in the form of decorative grilles. The decorative grilles that it still manufactures are made to the same pattern on the same machinery as they were over a century ago, though not quite by the same hands. James Gilbert and son have now been supplying the widest range of decorative grilles for longer than any other company in the world and are generally regarded as the industry standard in this field. They produce every kind of historical grille to have existed from the Renaissance period onwards, including regency grilles, perforated grilles and especially hand woven grilles. All of which can be treated to make them look as new or as old as the customer requires. A selection (though not all) of these can be viewed on their website. To these they have added a several ranges of modern grilles and meshes to suit the changing tastes; “though the styles always seem to come around again, says the current proprietor. We have clients who come in one year and want us to replace all their aluminium radiator grilles with brass ones because that is the fashion then 5 years later they come in again and ask for them all to be chrome plated or bronzed. Though their tastes change, the one thing they can rely on is that we will still be here”.

Giles Blunden has over twenty years experience in the metal fabrication business at

James Gilbert and Son

. Although historically

decorative grilles

have been the main focus of the business, the company is also involved in architectural metalwork, working with interior & set designers, architects, developers & private clients on both small & more prestigious commissions.

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How it all Began for James Gilbert and Son – Established in 1881