MARK Wilkinson, who started a kitchen design firm that won worldwide recognition, died yesterday after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.

The cabinetmaker from Bromham, who was awarded an OBE for his services to the furniture industry in 2011, started Mark Wilkinson Furniture 36 years ago.

He and wife Cynthia ran the firm until it became part of the Smallbone Group in 2005. But when that firm ran into financial trouble in 2009 it was bought by entrepreneur Leo Caplan’s firm Canburg, saving more than 400 jobs. He remained as creative director.

In a statement the firm said: “A truly English eccentric Mark Wilkinson was a visionary designer and an exceptionally skilled craftsman and furniture maker.”

Father of two Mark,66, suffered severe dyslexia and left school unable to read or write. But it did not prevent him becoming a member of Mensa and years ago he and Cynthia became patrons of the Rowdeford Charity Trust, which raises money for projects to help the education of children with special needs.

The couple also formed the Mark Wilkinson Foundation for Innovation and Employment to help further the ambitions and careers of young people with dyslexia.

“Mark Wilkinson was really an artist and wood was one of his main mediums. Out of that came beautiful, beautiful furniture and other objects for the home,” friend of 30 years Grahame Morrison told the Gazette.

“He virtually invented the English country kitchen look.”

More follows later.