BACK in 1936, a Mr Harry Woods decided to refurbish his home, The Gate House in Brighouse, and commissioned a fellow Yorkshireman, working some 50 miles away, to provide interior panelling, window seats and doors, as well as various items of furniture.
The craftsman of choice was, of course, the now famously
collectable Robert 'Mouseman' Thompson of Kilburn. The factory he
established, and many workshops set up by followers, continue to
produce the distinctive adzed oak furniture, but it is this pre-War
signature material which makes the biggest prices.
Mr Wood's daughter has been gradually selling the Gate House
pieces through Bamfords' Derby rooms and the
December 12-13 sale saw the final consignment which included a fine
pair of bookcases.
Made for Mr Wood's study, they were small and easily housed at
3ft 11in high x 4ft 3in wide (1.14 x 1.29m). They also had
everything the collector looks for - rectangular adzed tops with
carved arcades on the frieze, adjustable shelves set over a
slightly projecting base and a fall front formed of six pollarded
oak panels fitted with wrought-iron hinges and catches.
The carved mouse to the uprights proclaimed their maker, while
colour and condition were superb.
The £2000-3000 estimate reflected little more than the vendor's
desire to sell, but, even so, bidding went well above more
realistic expectations with more than 20 bidders in action.
The trade backed off around the £7000 mark and finally the
battle came down to one between two major collectors in Derbyshire
and a Yorkshireman. The Mouseman's fellow tyke won the day with a
bid of £18,000.
Historically, the most interesting ceramic was an unidentified
creamware ovoid jug, c.1775, 8in (20cm) high, transfer-printed in
blue with Thomas Newcomen's steam engine, above a foliate cartouche
inscribed S. Tompson, with an Oriental scene verso.
It was an incredibly rare piece which Bamford's James Lewis
first saw at a routine valuation four years ago and had finally
landed for sale Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729) has a special place in
Derbyshire's industrial heritage.
He developed his so-called 'fire-engine' in the late 17th
century, improving it gradually over the following decades. It used
steam power to create a vacuum which allowed large-scale water
extraction, initially in flooded tin mines in his native Cornwall.
The technology was adapted to Derbyshire coal and iron ore mining
and was even used c.1730 to pump steam into the Derby Silk Mill to
counteract the brittleness of the long silk filaments.
The jug was quite badly damaged, with a big Y-shaped crack from
the rim to the base, but its rarity and historical significance
drew interest from all over the UK, including local museums. A
£600-1000 estimate looked pretty reasonable, but was easily
outstripped when a dealer from Yorkshire had to go to £3400 to win
The buyer's premium was 15 per cent.