Monday, 7 September 2015

Mice and a Horse

If you have seen my previous post and read Graham's comment and my reply, you'll know that there was a mouse in the post, and at a "Mouseman" was hinted. What's all this about, then?

After we had admired Coxwold's beautiful Old Hall from the outside, we got back to the car and drove the short distance to Kilburn, the next village.
"Kil" and "burn" have nothing to do with killing and burning anything or anyone. Instead, at the root of this unusual place name are the Old English words "ciele burna", meaning "cool stream".
At a population of less than 200, in spite of it being a picturesque place, I doubt many people would know Kilburn at all, were it not for two things: The White Horse and The Mouseman.

Let's talk first about the latter. In 1919, the then 43 year old Robert Thompson, a furniture-maker, talked to his colleague while they were both working on a screen for a church. Someone said something about being as poor as a church mouse, and that inspired Mr. Thompson to carve a little mouse into the cornice he was working on at that moment.

From then on, mice were (more or less well hidden) part of nearly every piece that left Thompson's workshop. They even feature on wooden candlesticks in London's  Westminster Abbey.

The descendants of Robert Thompson still work the same craft as he did, still at the same premises in Kilburn. But one of the buildings is now a visitor centre with a shop and a café, and another one houses a museum. 
Lovely lavender
One of the buildings belonging to the company

View from the visitor centre's garden towards the White Horse at the top of Sutton Bank
The same view, zoomed in
The White Horse, seen from the car park

While I do admire everyone who is good at their craft and so skilled with their hands, none of the items for sale would look good in my flat - or be good to my wallet. To be honest, I found everything rather pricey. A dresser for over 11.000 pounds? A breadboard for 80 quid? Sorry, folks - but if I had 80 quid to spend on something like a breadboard, I guess I'd pay maybe a tenner for the board, if it was a really good one. Of the other 70 quid, I'd use 50 to buy bread and cheese for myself for several weeks, and donate 20 to someone less fortunate so that they could enjoy some bread and cheese once in a while, too.

Still, it is an interesting place to visit and stop for a cup of tea and a snack before tackling the White Horse - which will (you guessed it) be the subject of its own post tomorrow, apart from what you can already see here and read on the stone tablet.


  1. We are in serious white horse country here in Wiltshire. Do you have them in Germany, Meike?

    1. From the wikipedia entry, I gather that the Kilburn horse was inspired by the ones you have in your area, Frances.
      As far as I know, there aren't any in Germany.

  2. Well I've learned something (as is so often the case when you post). Obviously I knew the meaning of 'burn' but I had no idea that 'kil' meant cool. Nor did I know that Robert Thompson's descendants were still making furniture from the same workshop. I think I'm with you on the use of the £80!

    1. Glad to know it is not always the other way round - I learn from yours and other blogs all the time but never think that other people might learn anything from my posts.
      Actually, the German word "kühl" (meaning "cool" in the temperature sense) is often pronounced more like "keel" or "kil" (with a long "e") in Swabian dialect. I love detecting such similarities between our languages!

  3. Never heard of that white horse before. Fascinating.

    1. I'd seen it on pictures but didn't know how old (or young) it was, or who put it there, and why.