Gary Rycroft column

Allan Blackburn.
Allan Blackburn.

The thing I love best about this business is finding precious pieces when I’m out and about.

This happened to me last week when I walked into a pub in Helmsley in North Yorkshire and had the joyous task of letting the landlord know he was rather wealthy.

But a bit of background first.

Robert ‘Mouseman’ Thompson from Kilburn, North Yorkshire, was an exceptional carpenter and furniture maker who died in 1955.

Using the finest Yorkshire Oak his work is of the highest quality and is very valuable and very collectable.

In 1919 in the middle of his career he carved a little mouse following a conversation between himself and a colleague where he joked about “being as poor as a church mouse”.

From then on the cute little mouse could be found somewhere on each piece.

At private schools in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s if a boy had enjoyed their time at that school, they would bequeath a gift, maybe a chair or desk 

Back then Mouseman specialised in this type of furniture and as it could be bought very reasonably, it was often these pieces that found 
their way into school and colleges.

The value of these items has increased so considerably that lots of these schools have no idea of the value of their furniture.

When I was Chairman of the Governors at Kirkham School I realised that they housed over £10,000 worth of Mouseman furniture.

One chair alone was worth £500 and they have a wonderful table worth over £3,000.

The little mouse can be found carved into the leg or the seat, so if you see a teacher inspecting a wooden chair – you now know what they are looking for.

However, back to the landlord.

I was stood at the bar waiting to be served and I spotted a little mouse carved into a bar stool.

On closer inspection I realised that every stool in the pub and even the two bars were Mouseman.

The landlord had no idea that he was surrounded by at least half a million pounds worth of furniture.

I only went in for a drink but I think I made his day.

Mouseman really is a treasure.