About John Lilley & Gillie Ltd

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.

Lilley & Gillie Royal Visit Image 1On 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. 

Lilley & Gillie Royal Visit Image 2During 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.


About Us

Company Information

  • 1812  - John Lilley & Son established in London.
  • 1858  - 7 out of 44 shipyards on the Tyne were using iron.
  • 1862  - 10 out of 44 shipyards on the Tyne were using steel. This was a period of development for steel ships and the magnetic compass.
  • 1864 - John Wilson Gillie born.
  • 1870 - Sir William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin) designed his dry card standard compass.
  • 1880  - John Wilson Gillie was apprenticed to J.J. Wilson & Sons, Nautical Instrument Makers of Sunderland.
  • 1885  - J.W. Gillie formed a company in North Shields known as Wilson & Gillie. The business became agents for the Thomson compass. Later, John Gillie re-designed the compass suspension and patented the ‘Unit’, a standard compass.
  • 1890  - Wilson & Gillie are established as agents for Admiralty Charts and Publications.
  • 1911  - Through a disagreement with Sir William Thomson, John Lilley & Son of London lost the agency for Kelvin Binnacle. This resulted in financial difficulties. John Gillie rescued the business to control it jointly with John Lilley.
  • 1913  - Wilson & Gillie merged with John Lilley & Son to form John Lilley & Son of London and North Shields.
  • 1920 - John Lilley retired and J.W. Gillie gained full control of the company.
  • 1932 - John Lilley & Son of London merged with Reynolds and Son, Dobbie & Clyde Ltd., to become Lilley & Reynolds., with J.W. Gillie as Chairman.
  • 1943 - John Lilley & Son of North Shields is re-named John Lilley & Gillie Ltd.
  • 1953 - John Wilson Gillie died and his son, John Calder Gillie, became Chairman.
  • 1968 - John Lilley & Gillie Ltd incorporates the South Shields business of T.L. Ainsley Ltd.
  • 1974 - John Lilley & Gillie Ltd is sold by John Gillie to the Holland America Line (owners of Observator, Rotterdam). John Gillie remains Chairman.
  • 1977 - London based chart agent Brown & Perring is purchased by John Lilley & Gillie Ltd.
  • 1985 - John Lilley & Gillie Ltd acquires the assets of Henry Browne & Sons (Sestrel) Ltd, a major competitor.
  • 1988 - Holland America line sold the shares in Lilley & Gillie, Brown & Perring, and Observator to Kopeke International Supply Systems. John Gillie retires.
  • 1993 - Following a Management Buy Out (with financial support from Iver C. Weilback, Copenhagen), Chris Turnbull becomes the majority shareholder, Chairman and Managing Director.
  • 1999 - Lilley & Gillie Ltd is purchased by The Charente Steam Ship Company Ltd., Liverpool (with subsidiary companies Harrison Line, and Dubois Phillips McCallum).
  • 2002 - Lilley & Gillie Ltd acquired Thomas Walker & Son Ltd (Walker Marine).  Thus adding EM Speed Logs & Anemometers to the list of products.
  • 2010 - Through re-organisation, Lilley & Gillie Ltd., Dubois Phillips McCallum (DPM), and DPM (Singapore), become known as Harrison Maritime Holdings Group Companies.
  • 2012 - July 2nd Royal visit by HRH The Princess Royal to Commemorate the Bicentenary of Lilley & Gillie.
  • 2013 - John Lilley & Gillie Ltd sell its Chart and Publication business to concentrate on the marine equipment market.

Latest News

APM 2018

Asia Pacifia Maritime at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore is one of the stars of the Maritime exhibition calander. 

As always John Lilley & Gillie are astounded and apreciative of the incredable support from our partners for our range of products.




SMM 2018

SMM in Hamburg is fast approching and everyone here at Lilley & Gilly is getting set for a great show. 




Christmas 2016 Opening Hours

As we approch the end of another sucessful year at John Lilley & Gillie we would like to wish our friends and customers a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Garden Reach INS Kadmatt Advanced Degaussing Compass System

The John Lilley and Gillie service department has recently completed the HATS and SATS for INS Kadmatt; this anti-submarine vessel was built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders who are located in Kolkata.  

The system setup comprises of a degaussing compass utilising our top of the range core product the SR4 compass.