The cache of approximately 45 lots of Arts & Crafts oak furniture, representing one of ‘Mouseman’s’ largest commissions from the prime period of his career, is being sold by British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. GSK has recently put the Horlicks brand up for sale.
The landmark red-brick Horlicks factory in Slough was built in 1908 by company co-founder James Horlick (1844-1921) to produce the famous malted milk drink. The 6.5 acre site, purchased from Eton College three years earlier, was chosen for its stable water table and close proximity to farms producing milk and grain.
The Mouseman commission followed the building of a new office wing in the late 1920s with further offices and a laboratory added by the end of the ’30s. In three batches (1930, 1936 and 1938), the new spaces were furnished with partner’s desks, sideboards, coat stands and ‘monk’s’ chairs, each carved with the Horlick family coat of arms. The commission extended to a series of simple paper in-trays, each with the trademark mouse signature.
The collection will be sold by Sworders on October 9 with an estimate of around £100,000. It will be the largest Mouseman dispersal of its type since 2008 when (in 87 lots) North Yorkshire saleroom Tennants sold the fixtures and fittings of the Senior Library at Leeds Girls High School, a commission completed by the Kilburn workshop from 1933-34 at a cost of £1222.
After a chequered history of family and corporate ownership, the Horlicks factory in Slough, owned since 1969 by Beecham (later GSK), finally closed in 2017 with the site now earmarked for redevelopment.
Although demand for the brand has fallen in the UK, Horlicks remains popular overseas and Kraft Heinz, Nestlé and Coca-Cola are all reported to be in talks over a £3bn deal.