Thursday 9 July 2009
'Mouseman' stool, c.1920s
The distinctive carved mouse on the edge of the seat shows this oak stool to be from the workshops of Robert 'Mouseman' Thompson (1876-1955) in Kilburn, North Yorkshire.
Thompson was part of that rural craft revival which was evident in the opening decades of the twentieth century. As a young man he joined his father in the family joinery business - having already completed an engineering apprenticeship - and continued to live in the cottage that had been his childhood home in Kilburn for the rest of his life. He was inspired by examples of medieval craftsmanship in oak to be found in the region's ancient churches and jumped at the opportunity to develop his own expertise that was provided by commissions from Ampleforth College at the end of the First World War. The carved mouse, both a signature and a proof of pure craftsmanship, began to appear on his work soon after.
Over the following thirty years Thompson was responsible for a stream of screens, pulpits, altars, pews and stalls in churches great and small around the land and chairs, tables and panelling for both domestic and institutional settings. The business continues as Robert Thompson's Craftsmen Ltd in Kilburn today. A number of former Thompson apprentices went on to make their own name as furniture makers in Yorkshire and with their own signature carving devices: for example, Wilf 'Squirrelman' Hutchinson, Peter 'Rabbitman' Heap and Martin 'Lizardman' Dutton.
(Robert Thompson, from Mouseman by Patricia Lennon and David Joy, 2008)