Winkburn Church - memorial to Laurence Barrington Assheton Craven Smith Milnes (b. 1874 d. 1933) carved by the 'Mouseman'

Image ID: 08542

Winkburn Church - memorial to Laurence Barrington Assheton Craven Smith Milnes (b. 1874 d. 1933) carved by the 'Mouseman'

Courtesy of Nottinghamshire Archives

Near Winkburn Hall
Winkburn
England

Note the mouse carved at the bottom of the memorial. This is a symbol of the craftman wood carver and furniture maker 'Mouseman' Robert Thompson of Yorkshire. Robert visited Ripon and York Cathedrals, and he recorded his astonishment at the quality and intricacy of the medieval oak furnishings, which he found there. He was determined to spend his life bringing back the spirit of craftsmanship in English Oak, which had existed for hundreds of years and was now virtually dead. (Other designers at this time were also rebelling against the bland uniformity of mass production and created the Arts and Crafts movement). Thompson was able to involve himself in some splendid church furnishing of the kind which had inspired him in the first place and explains how he became best known over much of his own working life for some impressive examples of the designs of some of the leading architects of his day, as well as from his own designs. In his early experiments with various, rather primitive tools, he developed a technique of finishing the surfaces of his oak furniture with a pronounced 'tooled' effect by using an adze, a medieval tool which had been much used in the past for roughing out the broad shapes of ships' timbers, etc. This still remains a feature of today's items. The carved Mouse symbol was first registered as a trademark in the 1930's, however the following extracts from a letter written in Roberts own neat handwriting and addressed to the Reverend John H W Fisher, the then Vicar of Berkeley Parish Church, dated February 10th 1949. 'The origin of the Mouse as my mark was almost in the way of being an accident. I and another carver were carving a huge cornice for a screen and he happened to say something about being as poor as a church mouse. I said I will carve a mouse here and did so, and then it struck me, what a lovely trademark. This is about 30 years ago'. Later to his two Grandsons, who continued his work, he explained how he was humoured by the thought of a mouse scraping and chewing its way through the hardest wood, working away quietly while nobody takes any notice. He saw an immediate parallel with his own workshop, hidden away in the Hambleton Hills and so also was born his motto 'Industry in quite places'. The recipe for success grew as the growing band of young apprentices developed their talents. A Thompson style began to emerge based on sound construction and a straightforward fitness for purpose, using the three basic materials of English Oak, real cowhide and wrought iron . In 1955 Robert passed away peacefully with his family by his bedside. His very last words to his grandson Bob were 'Keep the timber yard full at all times, Bobby'. He was buried in the small church graveyard at Kilburn overlooking his beloved workshop that was later extended by his two grandsons. The family continues to run the business today, still incorporating the mouse symbol. Items of 'mouseman' furniture are now highly collectable. (information supplied by the fascinating 'Mouseman' website:- http://www.robertthompsons.co.uk/)

Date: 01/06/1985

Organisation Reference: NCCE002354

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