A concrete managerie
A curious menagerie garden to be seen in the small
Northumberland was the work of joiner John Fairington. In 1961 at the age of
80, John began to make life sized concrete and cement animals to amuse his
handicapped son Edwin. When he died 20 years later, John had acquired a vast
menagerie of some 300 animals and other figures which completely took over his
back garden. Inscriptions and verses abound in this ‘jardin imaginaire’ which
is freely open to the public. village
nestles at the
foot of the Hambleton Hills near Sutton Bank in village
of Kilburn North
Yorkshire and is the home of a very famous animal, a mouse! Which
is the trademark of a local wood carver.
The ‘Mouseman’, Robert Thompson, was born in Kilburn in 1886 and
followed his father into the trade of wheelwright. Robert was very fond of carving wood and loved
English oak – ‘ No other wood has the
same character as oak, and this is the medium with which I can express my
feelings,’ he is quoted as saying to a monk at nearby Ampleforth Abbey who
had recognised the young man’s skill.
Robert was commissioned for work at the Abbey and soon developed an
interest in carving church furniture, although it was not such lucrative work
at that time. One day he thought of the
expression ‘poor as a church mouse’ and
had the idea to carve a mouse on his work.
Since that time the little mouse has appeared on all Thompson furniture and carvings and is renowned in churches and home throughout the country. Many examples can be seen in churches everywhere, notably in York Minster and in Westminster Abbey. Just look for the little mouse. Robert Thompson died in 1955 aged 79 years and his half timbered cottage still stands in Kilburn close to the modern workshops where the Thompson family tradition is carried on by his family. A visit to the workshops and showrooms is an enlightening experience and the mouse can be seen in action on most of the furniture in Kilburn church.
The mouse in Kilburn Church