Of Mice and Snowdrops

The famous Yorkshire wood carver, Robert Thompson, took his dog to the equally famous Yorkshire vet, where he spotted a sideboard of French Fumed Oak. He bent down and stroked it reverently, “Beautiful”, he murmured, the gentle white moustached face illuminated by the great passion of his life, oak.

Robert Thompson born in the little village of Kilburn, was working as a wheelwright when the parish priest asked him to make a cross and table for the church. Astonished at his talent, he was advised to specialise in making oak furniture.

When looking for a symbol to distinguish his work, he thought of the expression, ‘as poor as a church mouse’. So he chose the mouse. As for James Herriot, he and his wife started a kind of piggy bank, ‘a Thompson Box’, to buy some of Thompson’s furniture. “We managed only a coffee table and a couple of ashtrays before nature took a hand and the box became our ‘baby box!”

A walk around St Mary’s Church, Kirk Bramwith, reveals no fewer than 27 mice caught in mid scurry on fittings and furnishings, dark oak pews, altar, reredos, pulpit, hymn boards and lectern; all the work of Robert Thompson, the mouseman of Kilburn.

The church itself is of simple structure, west tower, aisle-less nave and chancel, with some superb Norman ornamentation in the chancel arch and south doorway.

This small rural parish between the New Junction Canal and the River Don, lies in the flatlands north east of Doncaster. There is a slight Dutch feel, the land criss crossed by drainage channels and below sea level in some places.

The church yard boast one of the largest and most symetrical Yew trees in Yorkshire, at least six centuries old. But perhaps St Mary’s is most famous for the wonderful carpet of Snowdrops around February each year, focal poibnt of a local Snowdrop festival.

Well worth a visit.