In 1812, John Lilley, aged 24, founded John Lilley and Son in London. John Lilley is recorded as being an optician and the company manufactured nautical instruments, magnetic compasses, sextants and telescopes. In 1885 John Wilson Gillie founded Wilson & Gillie in North Shields as Admiralty chart agents and magnetic compass and nautical instrument makers. Over the years John Wilson Gillie patented many improvements to the magnetic compass and binnacle.
In 1913 the two companies merged, and in 1943 were renamed as John Lilley & Gillie Ltd. After over 200 years in business, John Lilley & Gillie Ltd have consolidated our position as the UK’s pre-eminent manufacturer of magnetic compass outfits. We have moved into larger, more modern warehouse and office premises to better serve our international customer base.
On the 2nd of July 2012 to mark our bicentenary we had the very great honour of hosting a visit to our North Shields head office from Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal. Her Royal Highness toured our premises accompanied by Glenn Heathcote, our Managing Director, and met with a wide variety of our staff, including our Chairman and our Chief Executive, (and other main Board Directors), team members from our equipment warehouse, our magnetic compass testing/calibration technicians, sales and sales administration staff, electronic equipment service engineers and our IT departments.
During her tour Her Royal Highness saw demonstrations of our latest, state of the art, fully Type Approved electronic navigation equipment, including our NAVMASTER Electronic Chart Display Information System, (ECDIS), our Bridge Navigation Watch Alarm System, (BNWAS) and our new Intelligent Wind Alarm System, (IWAS). She also saw a prototype of our brand new SESTREL NAVIGATOR compass, which is soon to begin Type Approval testing.