Regarding furniture, the mouse fan is definitely Robert Thompson. Known as ‘Mouseman’ or ‘Mousey’ Thompson, this craftsman left a carved design of the creature on each item that came out of his workshop in Kilburn, North Yorkshire.
They enlivened his simple and utilitarian but classic oak designs, which come up regularly at auction and usually prove very popular.
Thompson (1876-1955) was best known for making hand-crafted furniture but he also made candlesticks, candle boxes, ashtrays, cheeseboards and lamp bases.
Why a mouse? Thompson once explained: “The origin of the mouse as my mark was almost in the way of being an accident. I and another carver were carving a huge cornice for a screen and he happened to say something about being as poor as a church mouse. I said I will carve a mouse here and did so, and then it struck me, what a lovely trademark.”
Each of the mice took 45 minutes to carve and enshrined his reputation among furniture collectors.
While Mouseman’s work is now widely recognised, what is not so well known is that many former employees of the Thompson firm set up shop on their own, choosing other small creatures as their signatures.
Some 30 of these North Yorkshire so-called ‘critters’ have been identified, about half of them ex-Thompson workers, and names encountered include ‘Foxhead’, ‘Beaverman’, ‘Rabbit’, ‘Eagleman’, ‘Wrenman’, ‘Squirrelman’ and, intriguingly, even a ‘Gnomeman’.