Bless this makes home a sure seller

If your house was infested with rodents you would probably refrain from telling prospective buyers. But Brian and Margaret Turner are more than happy to reveal they have mice.

Their farmhouse in Boltby, near Thirsk, has a host of fixtures and fittings carved by Robert Thompson's and a fireplace that once belonged to the "Mouseman" of Kilburn himself.

Everything from skirting boards to doors and window sills have Thompson's trademark wooden mouse on them, which add to the value of the beautiful 18th century home now on the market with Smiths Gore for 1.2m.

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The property's links to the master craftsman, whose work is now as collectable as Chippendale, are strengthened by pieces of furniture bought by Mr Turner's father, who knew Robert Thompson.

Mrs Turner said: "My father-in law bought furniture from him when he was just a one-man band and we inherited the table and chairs. The table is beautiful and incredibly strong. It has withstood years of everyday use by us and our four children," .

Mouseman forgeries are common thanks to the escalating value of the originals, but the provenance of the English oak pieces in the farmhouse are indisputable.

The unusual fireplace was designed in the 1930s by Robert Thompson for the snug in his cottage in Kilburn. It was sold by his great grandson Ian Cartwright, now managing director of the family company, to previous owner of the farmhouse John Brown.

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Mr Brown carried out some renovation to the 4,800 sq ft property and also commissioned Robert Thompson's to create bespoke woodwork for the interior.

Mr and Mrs Turner continued the renovation when they bought the four bedroom house 23 years ago and added their own Mouseman furniture.

Mrs Turner, who is selling the property and its three acre beckside grounds to downsize, said: "My husband remembers Mr Thompson as a small, unassuming man who just absolutely loved working with wood and we love his furniture."

Mr Cartwright added: "Everything is original in the farmhouse. We did the work in the early 80s and everything we do still has our trademark mouse.

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"The fireplace was in my great grandfather's cottage but as we expanded the showroom we needed to remove it. It was surplus to requirements and we sold it to Mr Brown.

"I can't be certain that my great grandfather carved it himself as in that inter-war period he had around 40 employees and spent most of his time at the drawing board coming up with new ideas but it's a Mouseman piece and he did design it."

The mouse, which appears on every piece of the company's furniture, was born around 1920 when Mr Thompson was working in a church with a fellow craftsman joiner.

The man remarked that they were both "as poor as church mice". "My great grandfather replied that he thought they very much like church mice because no one knows they're there

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and they use their chisel like teeth on the wood," said Mr Cartwright.

"He carved a mouse on the church screen he was working on and started putting it on everything he did afterwards. It tuned out to be a very successful trademark.

"Fortunately a customer, who was also a solicitor, advised him to register it and it was one of the earliest trademarks ever registered, along with the MG car."

Mouseman furniture now features in the Arts and Crafts Museum in Cheltenham and is soon to be celebrated by the V&A. Mr Cartwright said: "The Mouseman was well known in his day, but as is often the case he is more famous now than he was in his lifetime."

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The farmhouse in Boltby is for sale with Smiths Gore, York. Tel: 01904 756300


Born in 1876 Robert Thompson dedicated his life to the craft of carving and joinery in English oak.

He was the son of John Thompson the village joiner, carpenter, and wheelwright in Kilburn and inherited the business in 1895.

Fascinated by the techniques and tools used in the 15th century and inspired by medieval carver William Bromflet, whose work he admired in Ripon Cathedral, he taught himself how to use them.

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After a fellow craftsman remarked they were: "as poor as church mice" he carved a mouse in every piece of furniture he made.

Much of his early work was ecclesiastical and there is a "mouse" in almost every one of the great churches in the North of England, including York and Beverley Minsters. There is also one in Westminster Abbey.

In 1919 Robert accepted his first commission from Father Paul Neville of Ampleforth and more commissions followed.