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Estimated at £2000-3000, it sold at £13,000 (plus 20% buyer’s premium) – a record for a Mouseman carving

Inscribed to the base within a rodent-shaped cartouche, the whimsical figure offered at the North Yorkshire auction stood 11in (27cm) high abd was dressed in a joiner’s apron. He holds a mallet in one hand and a lattice panel of the type that appears to some Mouseman chair backs in the other.

The figure is very rare, although not unique (another resides at the Kilburn museum), and the first offered at auction. It was part of a group of carvings in the 20th Century Design sale at Tennants in Leyburn put together by a lady from the north of England who began collecting in the 1970s. As a regular visitor to the Kilburn workshops she had the opportunity to commission pieces directly.

The Mouseman of Kilburn was probably made in the 1970s or 80s by master carver George Weightman.

Specialist and Mouseman guru Diane Sinnott said four or five collectors competed for the figure she had estimated at £2000-3000. The hammer price of £13,000 at the auction on March 6 was bid by a UK buyer new to the auctioneers.

Collectors also scrapped to own a similarly sized carving of Mr Toad of Wind in the Willows fame, dressed in a driving coat, scarf, hat, boots and goggles (estimate £2000-3000). It sold to a different buyer at £10,000.

Purple patch

Helped by the sense of a rising market and the input of three or four serious collectors Mouseman continues to enjoy a saleroom purple patch. The small-scale carvings, typically made in Kilburn for promotional purposes (some were created to attract custom at the Yorkshire Show) are particularly popular.

In the same sale an 8in (20cm) table brush holder carved as an owl holding a mouse in its talon sold at £6000. Given by Mouseman Robert Thompson to his housekeeper Alexandrina (Ena) Dey, in 2017 it had been sold by Tennants for £2200.

The previous high for a Mouseman carving was £10,000, set in July 2019 for a pair of elephant bookends at Lawrences of Crewkerne (ATG No 2401). Probably by master carver Stan Dodds (1928-2012), they were commissioned by Yorkshire shipping director John Weston Adamson (1904-77).