Two family collections of Robert Thompson furniture were offered in Tennants’ (24% buyer’s premium) 20th Century Design Sale on July 25.
The Leyburn saleroom complex is a picturesque hour’s drive across the North Riding from Kilburn where the ‘Mouseman’ phenomenon began over a century ago and continues today.
The core of the sale was provided by 10 prime-period Mouseman lots bought in the 1930s by William Becket Henderson, a wool merchant from Keighley and later Kettlewell, near Skipton. Thompson’s original sales records show that Henderson had been a good client, commissioning furniture as early as 1926.
The market for prime-period Mouseman has stepped up a notch in the past year. Here, two typical panelled double wardrobes, with inset mouse signatures and hand-hammered ironwork, sold for £9800 and £9200, while two ensuite bedside cupboards were £8500 and £7500.
Included in the consignment was a 1950 portrait by Reginald Grange Brundrit (1883-1960) of John Henderson (William’s son) in which the young boy is depicted seated on a Mouseman stool. It sold for £950.
The final total for the 10 lots was £60,650: an equivalent group of pieces from Gimson or Barnsley would scarcely have made more.
Tennants specialist Diane Sinnott said: “Early Mouseman furniture always sells well, but these prices really were extraordinary. It was a pleasure to handle so many fine pieces with good provenance and see many of them go back into private Yorkshire collections.”
A further North Yorkshire family collection of five pieces sold for £24,400.
These dated from the 1940s-50s, the final years of the Thompson period (he died in 1955), but had acquired a patina and darker colour that comes with age and regular use. It included the top lot of the sale: a small 2ft 6in (75cm) wide writing table with a single drawer and octagonal legs which sold for £10,000.
Punchy bids were also reserved for two smaller rarities from other sources. An oak mantel clock from the 1930s featuring a climbing rodent and a Smiths movement took £4000 against an estimate of £1000-1500.
But surely the price of the day was the mighty £3100 bid against an estimate of £400-600 for a 1960s powder bowl and cover with a mouse finial. This scarce form was stamped to the base with the initials JTSA, possibly for the person who commissioned it.