I don’t know why I’d never thought of Tate and Lyle sugar, and the Tate gallery as being of the same origin. The Tate Gallery was founded by Henry Tate, the sugar merchant. Born in White Coppice, a hamlet near Chorley, Lancashire, he was the son of a Unitarian clergyman, When he was 13, he became a grocer’s apprentice in Liverpool. After a seven-year apprenticeship, he was able to set up his own shop. His business was successful, and grew to a chain of six stores by the time he was 35.
In 1859 Tate became a partner in John Wright & Co. sugar refinery, selling his grocery business in 1861. By 1869, he had gained complete control of the company, and renamed it as Henry Tate & Sons.
Thomas Benjamin Kennington – Orphans, 1885
In 1872, he purchased the patent from German Eugen Langen for making sugar cubes, and in the same year built a new refinery in Liverpool. In 1877 he opened a refinery at Silvertown, London, which remains in production. He built the Tate Institute opposite his Thames Refinery, with a bar and dance hall for the workers’ recreation.
Elizabeth Butler – The Remnants of an Army, 1879
Tate rapidly became a millionaire and donated generously to charity. Tate lived at the lavish Park Hill by Streatham Common, South London. Originally built by William Leaf and designed by John Buonarotti Papworth, the large house was the original home of Henry Tate’s work of contemporary paintings.
Park Hill, Streatham Common
In 1889 Tate donated his collection of sixty-five contemporary paintings to the government, on the condition that they be displayed in a suitable gallery, toward the construction of which he also donated £80,000. The National Gallery of British Art, nowadays known as Tate Britain, was opened on 21 July 1897, on the site of the old Millbank Prison.
Tate made many donations, often anonymously and always discreetly. He supported “alternative” and non-establishment causes. There was £10,000 for the library of Manchester College, founded in Manchester in 1786 as a dissenting academy to provide religious nonconformists with higher education.
John William Waterhouse – The Lady of Shalott, 1888
He also gave the College (which had retained its name during moves to York, London and finally Oxford), £5,000 to promote the ‘theory and art of preaching’. In addition he gave £20,000 to the (homoeopathic) Hahnemann Hospital in Liverpool in 1885. He particularly supported health and education with his money, giving £42,500 for Liverpool University, £3,500 for Bedford College for Women, and £5,000 for building a free library in Streatham. Additional provisions were made for libraries in Balham, South Lambeth, and Brixton. He also gave £8,000 to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary, and £5,000 to the Queen Victoria Jubilee Institute, which became the Queen’s Institute for District Nurses.
Tate was made a baronet on 27 June 1898. He had refused this title more than once until – after he had spent £150,000 to build the Millbank Gallery, endowed it with his personal collection, and presented it to the nation, he was told the Royal Family would be offended if he refused again.
John Everett Millais – Ophelia, 1851-2
He is buried in nearby West Norwood Cemetery, the gates of which are opposite a public library that he endowed. In 1921, after Tate’s death, Henry Tate & Sons merged with Abram Lyle & Sons to form Tate & Lyle.
Park Hill, Streatham Common, A mews of houses replacing the hothouses.