Obituary: Claude Gill

Claude Stuart Gill, bookseller: born Worcester Park, Surrey 8 October 1902; married 1934 Madeline Marshall (died 1985; one daughter); died 31 March 1993.

THERE is little left to remind us - a chain of sad-looking remainder bookstores - but Claude Gill Books was once a proud and flourishing bookshop right in the centre of the West End of London, at the Marble Arch end of Oxford Street. Indeed it was almost the only large bookshop to remain open in the West End during the Sixties when retail rents began to escalate.

Claude Gill Books was a vast 8,000- sq ft bookshop immediately across and up from Selfridges. Next door to high-fashion shoeshops and dress shops stood a window filled with books about technical drawing, the latest advances in nuclear fusion and bricklaying for beginners.

Claude Gill's family were booksellers, but his first choice of career was the Merchant Navy. After a period working on tankers and training to be a navigator, Gill took up his first bookselling job as manager of the technical and scientific department at Foyle's. Here he picked up both his specialised knowledge of this part of the business, and the Foyle family's workaholic approach to bookselling.

With the outbreak of war Gill returned to his earlier passion, the sea, and joined the Royal Navy. He served with distinction and was appointed OBE for organising shipping routes for the D-Day landings.

On his return he was asked to open and run the bookshop 'Books and Careers' (later called Claude Gill Books), for the Cleaver-Hume publishing family, owners of the correspondence-course educational empire.

The idea behind the shop was to meet the demand from returning ex- servicemen for technical textbooks. Within a few years Claude Gill Books became one of London's largest bookshops - a warehouse for the mail-order department which Gill rated the most important department in his domain. Its impressive scientific and technical sections were complemented by general books.

The man whose vision made all this possible retired promptly at 65. He rarely returned, and if he did it was bitterly to condemn the removal from the window of any technical product and the attempts to replace it with fashionable razzmatazz.

Claude Gill died, aged 90, with equal discipline, on the very last day of the old financial year, 31 March. It was always on the annual stock-taking days - organised to begin the Saturday afternoon closest to 31 March - that Gill appeared before his entire staff to rally them into the great adventure of physically counting every book in the shop. With his devoted assistant Mrs Whitehouse, he organised the entire operation. For most of the rest of the year Gill shyly hid away in a box-room of an office and rarely spoke to younger members of the staff except on special occasions such as when salaries were being raised by 10 shillings. Claude Gill Books produced some remarkable booksellers, including Jimmy Hume, Tony Miles, Don Noble, Paul Wellsman, John Monk and Ron Ulyett.

Gill retired to garden, living quietly with his wife until her death eight years ago. He was a special bookman and he passed on to people a love for handling books properly. He might have sold Madonna, but he would never have had the price knocked down.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week