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The suite of six armchairs and a refectory table, sold for close to £70,000 at the Period Oak sale at Wilkinson’s (20% buyer’s premium) of Doncaster on November 25, is among the earliest known by the Kilburn workshop.

Featuring distinctive ‘first generation’ mice with front paws and whiskers – the mark used by craftsman Robert ‘Mousey’ Thompson (1876-1955) from the mid 1920s until c.1930 – it was probably made c.1926-27 for Brigadier Kenneth Hargreaves of Wetherby.

The suite was later part of the collection of the Community of the Resurrection in West Yorkshire with the vendor acquiring it in the 1980s.

Early trademark

Among the lots, a group of six Mouseman ‘Monk’s’ chairs, commissioned c.1926-27 for Brigadier Kenneth Hargreaves, were an early model. Similar examples are known at Stanbrook Abbey and Ampleforth College – Robert Thompson’s (1876-1955) first major commission.

The distinctive splats to the sides are a reference to St Laurence who was martyred on a grid-iron (later chairs have interlaced splats) while heraldic crests incorporate bees and the banner Industria as a reference to Hargreaves’ status as a local industrialist.

Two chairs were carved with three trademark mice (each with whiskers and front paws as was common in early designs) with two mice to the other four chairs. They sold for prices between £5000 and £8000 each – much more than the £1500-2000 one might expect for a typical model.

An ensuite 3ft 1in x 9ft (95cm x 2.75m) refectory table carved with six mice, one to each cruciform pedestal and the corners of the 3in (7cm) thick top, was estimated at £7000-9000 but took £31,000.

The pieces – split over a number of UK buyers bidding in the room or on the phone – rivalled the quality of the Horlicks collection sold by Sworders in October. At that auction, a similar refectory table carved with the Horlicks family coat of arms took £28,000 while a dresser sold at £35,000 – the second-highest ever for Mouseman, next to the $70,000 (£40,460) bid at Sotheby’s New York in 2003 for a documentary two-section cupboard of 1923.