Yorkshire "Critters" Come to Hibernate at Dreweatts this Autumn

From ‘Mouseman’ and ‘Lizardman’ to ‘Eagleman’ and ‘Squirrelman’, They All Come to Hibernate at Dreweatts this Autumn

at Donnington Priory is offering a quintessentially English sale of predominantly light oak furniture in the Decorative Arts and Design since 1860 sale.

Dreweatts is delighted to be offering some 56 lots of beautifully made furniture by Yorkshire craftsman in the sale at Donnington Priory on Tuesday 18th October.

On the closure of their Wiltshire showroom, the Arts and Crafts Company (www.arts-and-crafts-company.com) is selling choice items of furniture and pictures, providing a rare opportunity to buy well- made, solid mainly light oak pieces at auction outside their native Yorkshire; estimates range from as little as £100 up to £6000.

Collectively known as the Yorkshire 'critters', most of the craftsmen signed their work with an animal or other carving. The best known is Robert Thompson of Kilburn known as the 'Mouseman', who worked in North Yorkshire. Thompson was born in 1876 and died 1955 and he started his business as a maker of ecclesiastical oak furnishings and furniture. It has been suggested that the ‘critters’ trademark came about by accident in 1919 after Robert Thompson had told one of his colleagues that he was 'as poor as a church mouse.’ At the time he was carving a cornice for a screen and this random remark inspired him to carve a small mouse which went onto become a trademark for all his works. The Dreweatts’ sale includes four kidney shaped tables (lots 443-446) originally for the interior of the The Royal Yacht Hotel, Jersey (£800-1,200 each) and an early oak 10ft 6ins refectory dining table with a typically adzed top estimated at £4,000-6,000 (lot 449).

Many of the other craftsmen who signed their pieces with little carved animals, were apprentices at the Thompson workshops and their furniture is also included in the sale, from Colin 'Beaverman' Almack, Albert 'Eagleman' Jeffray and Martin 'Lizardman' Dutton to Peter 'Rabbitman' Heap, David 'Oakleafman' Langstaff and Wilf 'Squirrelman' Hutchinson.

Two apprentices from Acorn Industries are also represented in the sale: Derek 'Lizardman' Slater and Michael 'Seahorseman' Riley. Acorn Industries was established by Alan Grainger Senior as a workshop at Bradsby in North Yorkshire in 1934, after learning his trade at Medds in Easingwold. Acorn Industries itself was founded when Alan' s son, Alan Grainger Junior joined the firm in 1958 and the following year they started using the well known 'acorn’ trademark. During the 1960s they expanded to seven craftsmen with many former apprentices setting up their own workshops in the area. In 2005 Alan Grainger’s grandson Derek retired, leaving just two craftsmen Derek and Paul Harrison, and the company was then closed.

Also included in the auction are pieces by Thomas 'Gnomeman' Whittaker (1910-1991) who lived and worked at Littlebeck about 5 miles from Whitby. Legend has it that every time an acorn sprouts, a gnome is born and that gnome will then guard the oak tree all its life.

The rest of the sale features glass and ceramics with two particularly good pieces of St Ives Pottery vases made by the master potter Bernard Leach, one decorated with running hares (lot 324) is estimated at £800-1200 while the other with a tenmoku glaze is expected to fetch £600-800. The silver section boasts a fine silver and gold cigarette case (lot 351) by one of the 20th century's greatest designer silversmiths, Omar Ramsden and this is expected to fetch £4000-6000. A commission from a Kettering shoe manufacturer, it is decorated with Crispin and Crispinian, the patron saints of cordwainers (shoemakers) depicted cutting leather and making a shoe. There is also a Classic pattern silver table service for 8 place settings by Mappin & Webb. In superb condition and housed in a canteen table, this carries an estimate of £2,000-3,000 (lot 361).

The sale also includes a fine large bronze group by Sir George James Frampton, RA (1860-1928) (lot 373). Entitled 'The true Queen is on her Throne when her Realm is on her Lap' it has a good, deep brown patination and was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1905, no. 1822 and later at the International Exhibition, Dublin (a small version in plaster), no. 162. It is particularly interesting that this group appears not to have been seen at auction in recent years, and in fact the example for sale was a 'barn find', from an outhouse on a Berkshire country estate, and it carries a pre-sale estimate of £5,000-8,000

To view the sale catalogue online, please click here.

For further press information please email press@dnfa.com or call the Dreweatts’ Donnington Priory Salerooms on 01635 553553.

Dreweatts - 07 October 2011