Antiques Column: I am looking forward to bringing some of my exciting finds to you!

Welcome to the new/old column! I am Alison Gillatt and have more than 40 years’ experience in the auction world.
A collection of Mouseman pieces by George Cave.A collection of Mouseman pieces by George Cave.
A collection of Mouseman pieces by George Cave.

Since 2016 I have been the Senior Valuer at Sheffield Auction Gallery in charge of the Fine Art sales and now also run the house clearance and probate valuation department as our much loved colleague Michael Dowse has recently retired.

I have worked as an off screen Valuer for many antiques tv shows including Flog it!, Make Me A Dealer and Dickinson’s Real Deal so have many a tale to tell of my adventures filming and the characters I have met over the years but that’s for another day!

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As a proud Yorkshire lass my favourite items are always those made in Yorkshire. I fondly remember as a child visiting with my mother the workshop of Robert “Mouseman” Thompson in Kilburn in North Yorkshire and watching the craftsmen at work. We always brought a piece on our visits and looked out for Mouseman items on our regular trips to auctions across the North of England. I was hooked and now have quite a collection of my own.

Robert Thompson (1876-1955) was the son of a carpenter and stonemason and was inspired by the Medieval carvings at Ripon Cathedral to create his own oak furniture in the British vernacular tradition. One of his first commissions was the Church at Ampleforth.

When carving a screen Robert said to a colleague that he was as poor as a church mouse and decided to carve a mouse in one corner and there began the tradition of his trademark mouse. Up to around 1930 all the mice had front paws and there after only back paws were carved.

The business is still run by Robert’s descendants and many of the carvers are known as the Yorkshire Critters such as “Beaver man” and “Squirrel man”, who have set up their own workshops producing similar traditional hand-made furniture.

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Here in Sheffield you can regularly find Mouseman pieces at auction, and of my particular favourite pieces was an early rectangular blanket box dated 1929 and carved with the owners initials which was discovered in local Sheffield house clearance and sold at Sheffield Auction Gallery for an amazing £12,000 in March last year. Many more affordable pieces such as ash trays, book troughs and bread boards can be found, up to large pieces of furniture such as dining suits, cupboards and bookcases.

I am looking forward to bringing some of my exciting finds to you!