Cumbrian antique traders are on the alert after a series of raids in which Arts & Crafts Furniture by Robert “Mouseman” Thompson was stolen from churches in North Yorkshire, on the run up to Christmas.
Police feel the items – which included antique dining tables, a bishop’s chair and a lectern, all featuring Thompson’s famous carved mouse signature – may have been offered to antique dealers, either in Yorkshire or across the borders. They have urged shop owners to contact them if anyone comes in with suspicious Mouseman Arts & Crafts Furniture items.
Robert Thompson (1876 –1955) was prolific during the 1920s revival of Arts & Crafts Furniture, although Cumbrian cabinetmaker Stanley Webb Davies is perhaps the most famous name associated with the style. “Mousey” based his ideas on 17th century furniture designs, working only with naturally seasoned, quarter-sawn English oak which was fumed, rather than stained, to preserve the natural beauty of the wood. Fuming was a technique developed by American Arts & Crafts furniture designer Gustav Stickley. It is said Thompson dreamed up the idea of the mouse motif in 1919, when a colleague commented of being
“poor as a church mouse.”
Thompson added a mouse to the cornice for a screen he was carving, although this has never been found.
Mouseman did many commissions for rural churches, several of which were looted in the recent raids. Much of his work can be seen in Kilburn Parish Church, located next to the Mouseman workshops (still in operation today). Luckily, this was not targeted. In Cumbria, antique dining chairs , open bookcases and other pieces by Mouseman regularly turn up in antique dealers, who always check the credentials of those they are buying from.
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