Early ‘Mouseman’ furniture to be auctioned off

An extensive selection of early furniture made by Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson will be auctioned off at the 20th Century Design Sale at Tennants Auctioneers in Leyburn.

Drawn from several private collections, the auction house says many of the pieces by the craftsman from Kilburn, near Thirsk, are sold with excellent provenance, and all date from the 1920s and 1930s.

The sale will be held on March 2.

Tennants’ 20th Century design specialist Diane Sinnott said: “We have been very privileged at Tennants to sell some wonderful pieces of Mouseman furniture over the years, but we have never had a sale with so many important early pieces with such excellent provenance.

“This really is an exceptional auction.”

A fine group of bedroom furniture made for Kate Elwell, who was Robert Thompson’s secretary for several years, is led by an English Oak Tall Double Wardrobe (estimate: £5,000-7,000 plus buyer’s premium), an unusually small English Oak Wardrobe (estimate: £3,000-5,000), and an English Oak 3ft Bedstead (estimate: £400-600). Also for sale are two fenders (estimate: £300-500 each). In addition to her secretarial work, Kate helped paint any polychromed pieces that were commissioned, and she continued to work at the Mouseman workshop in Kilburn until she married in 1938.

Being sold from a deceased estate are two lots which were given by American businessman Paul Herrick Kelly to his son Captain Philip Paul Kelly on the occasion of his marriage to Mary Haselwood Porter in 1932.

The lots comprise an English Oak Partner’s Desk (estimate: £5,000-7,000), and an English Oak Monk’s Chair, made circa 1929 and bearing the Ampleforth Abbey coat-of-arms on gridiron panels (estimate: £2,000-3,000). Captain Philip Kelly, who attended Ampleforth College between 1919 and 1923, died in Myanmar during the Second World War having been mentioned in dispatches.

From a further Private Collection is an elaborately carved English Oak Blanket Chest, made in 1928 for John and Kathleen Brunton to celebrate their marriage, which took place in Halifax (estimate: £4,000-6,000).

The chest is decorated with two Medieval-style carved heads in profile, and the initials ‘JKB’ along with the date ‘1928’.

The chest is based on a 16th century example held in the collection of the V&A, and which was illustrated in Robert Thompson’s copy of Early English Furniture and Woodwork, a 1922 publication by Crescinsky and Gribble. Robert annotated the page next to the illustration with notes and working drawings, and the book is still in the possession of the Thomson family at Kilburn.

A set of unique child’s nursery furniture is also on offer, which was commissioned by the Thompson-Schwab family of Kingfield House, Penton, Carlisle before later being purchased by the current vendor.

The unusual set comprises an English Oak 3’2” Single Bedstead, with the headboard carved with a scene from Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit of Mrs Rabbit with three of the Flopsy Bunnies (estimate: £500-800), and a pair of English Oak Adjustable Chairs, the backs carved with a bear and an elephant (estimate: £3,000-5,000).

The practical chairs have a winding mechanism to the base allowing the height of the seat to be adjusted to match a child’s growth.

From the collection of a North Yorkshire man are two English Oak Monk’s Chairs, made for the Horlicks family of Berkshire.

The Horlicks’ outfitted both their boardroom and their private house with Mouseman furniture, and the present lots were purchased directly from the family some years ago. Each chair is carved with monks’ heads and Yorkshire roses, with a carved ‘H’ to the back panel (estimate: £2,000-3,000 each). From the same collection is an English Oak Table, with carved octagonal legs on a cross base (estimate: £2,000-3,000).

Hailing from the South of England is a Private Family Collection comprising an English Oak 5’3” Panelled Sideboard (estimate: £5,000-8,000), an English Oak 6’ Refectory Dining Table (estimate: £2,000-3,000), an English Burr Oak Floor Standing Corner Cupboard (estimate: £3,000-4,000), a set of six English Oak Dining Chairs (estimate: £2,000-3,000), and an English Oak Side Table (estimate: £1,000-1,500). Finally, from a further vendor, is an English Oak Manel Clock, offered with an estimate of £2,000-3,000.

The sale will also offer a further 80 lots of Mouseman furniture and furnishings dating from the 1940s onwards.