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Born in London of Huguenot descent, in 1816 he went into partnership with Philip Oakden in Hamburg, Germany as a merchant, where in 1825 he married Patience Oakden, Philip's sister. They returned to England, where his wife died in 1833. They had no children, and Gilles never remarried, but took on several protegees, including his nephew John Jackson Oakden.
Gilles migrated to the new Australian colony on the HMS Buffalo in 1836 and acted as the Colonial Treasurer. He was a prominent businessman and land owner, with the largest holdings of any settler in 1837. He was, with his secretary William Finke, and a few others, the fortunate ticket-holder in the ballot for the purchase of city acres at Glenelg, of which he took full advantage. He sat on the Street Naming Committee on 23 May, 1837.
Named for Gilles
- Gilles Street in the Adelaide Central Business District
- Gilles Arcade, off Currie Street, site of the Queen's Theatre
- Glen Osmond Road
- O.G. Road, a major thoroughfare through the suburb of Klemzig
- Osmond Terrace, a major thoroughfare through the suburbs of Norwood and Fullarton. (Osmond Road, Marion was named for Harry Osmond, a local businessman.)
- Adelaide suburbs of Glen Osmond and Gilles Plains. A new suburb formed from a portion of Gilles Plains has been named Oakden after Gilles' wife.
- Gilleston Park on the Gilles Plains and farmed by Dr. John Blunden,
- Gilleston now part of Balhannah
- Lake Gilles which is located in the north of Eyre Peninsula was named after Gilles by the British explorer, Edward John Eyre, in 1839.
- "Choice of the Township of Glenelg and the New Port Section". South Australian Gazette And Colonial Register. II, (55). South Australia. 9 February 1839. p. 4. Retrieved 22 March 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
- "The Durrant Family Website: Early land sales". Chris Durrant. Retrieved 22 March 2017. An extraordinary document.
- "Advertising". Adelaide Observer (90). South Australia. 15 March 1845. p. 1. Retrieved 23 March 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Towns, People, and Things We Ought to Know". The Chronicle (Adelaide). LXXVI, (4,011). South Australia. 28 September 1933. p. 13. Retrieved 23 March 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Search result for " Lake Gilles (Lake)" (Record no SA0026121)". Property Location Browser. Government of South Australia. Retrieved 19 June 2016.