Sir Henry Tate


Sir Henry Tate – Baronet

He gave London the Tate gallery and gave the world the sugar cube.

Sir Henry Tate

Sir Henry Tate

Henry Tate (1819 -1899) was the son of Agnes Booth (3rd great grand Aunt of Carolyn Booth) and the Reverend William Tate,  he gave London the Tate gallery and gave the world the sugar cube.

Henry was the founder of the Tate gallery and he donated his collection of British nineteenth-century art and provided funding for its building. His name was subsequently given to the Tate Gallery.

An industrialist who had made his fortune as a sugar refiner.

The son of a clergyman, Tate was born in Chorley, Lancashire and was educated in his father’s own school until the age of thirteen when he moved to Manchester to become a grocer’s assistant. By the age of twenty he had his own shop and by thirty-five a chain of six shops all in the Liverpool area.

In 1859 he became a partner in the John Wright & Co. sugar refinery and by 1869 had gained complete control of the company and renamed it Henry Tate & Sons (later to become Tate & Lyle).

When Tate set up another refinery on the banks of the Thames near London, he left Liverpool and moved to Streatham in South London. By now he was a millionaire, thanks largely to his patenting of a means of cutting sugar into dice-sized cubes. He used his fortune to endow colleges, hospitals and libraries, including that at Harris Manchester College, Oxford and, in 1893, free libraries for the London boroughs of Battersea, Brixton and Streatham.

Around this time, he also began to collect art, most often from the Royal Academy’s annual exhibitions. He was a great patron of Pre-Raphaelite artists, particularly his great friend John Everett Millais. To house his collection he had a picture gallery built at his house in Streatham that opened to the public on Sundays.

By the 1890s the extreme lack of space for British artists at the National Gallery was becoming a matter of national concern. Tate himself attempted to donate sixty paintings to the Gallery but there was not enough space to house them.

A campaign for funding was started with backing from The Times newspaper. It was stated in The Times that what London needed was a ‘really representative and choice collection of our (British) art gathered together in some great central gallery… a gallery that shall do for English art what Luxembourg does for French’.

Eventually a site was chosen for just such a gallery on the Thames at Millbank. Tate not only donated his own collection but also paid for the gallery to be built. It was originally called The National Gallery of British Art but soon came to be known as the Tate Gallery in honour of its benefactor.

Tate Britain Gallery

Tate Britain Gallery

Shortly after the opening of the gallery in 1897, Tate was created a baronet. He died at Streatham on 6 December 1899.

Brief biography of Henry Tate

  • Sir Henry Tate was born in 1819 – 11th child of Rev. William Tate and Agnes Booth.
  • Henry Tate was apprenticed at the age of 13 to his elder brother in his grocery shop. After 1839 he built up 6 shops which he sold in 1861 to finance his partnership in the refining business.
  • His fortune came from his innovations in refining.
  • He bought a new method of purifying sugar from Frenchmen, (Bovin and Loiseau), and he withdrew his daughter from school in the 1870s in order to afford the cost of constructing a new refinery in a derelict shipyard.
  • He bought the lease of a new process of making sugar cubes from Eugene Lengen of Cologne – with agreement to pay royalties when he made a profit – up till then sugar had been sold in ‘loaves’ which people had to break into pieces. This was the real source of his fortune, i.e. his talent for innovation and taking advantage of new technology.
  • He was made a baronet in 1898. He had twice declined this honour, but was eventually persuaded to accept by Lord Salisbury, who told him that a refusal would be a snub to the royal family.
  • Sir Henry Tate died at his home in Streatham, Park Hill, on 5 December 1899, after a long illness, and was buried at Norwood cemetery. He was survived by his second wife and succeeded in the baronetcy by his eldest son, William Henry.
  • Henry Tate took a great interest in art, sought to encourage young artists, and built up an extensive collection of contemporary paintings at his home in Park Hill, Streatham Common, London.
  • He was a close friend of Sir John Everett Millais, Director of the Royal Academy.
  • Henry Tate had intended to donate his collection to the National Gallery, but the trustees were prepared to accept only a sample.
  • After some difficulty in finding a site, he endowed a new gallery at Millbank in London. This became the National Gallery of British Art, but has always been far better known as the Tate Gallery.
  • He donated sixty-five of his own pictures, and three sculptures to the gallery. They included many which reflected his conservative taste, such as Orchardson’s Her First Dance and The First Cloud; Waterhouse’s Lady of Shallot; Millais’ Ophelia, Vale of Rest, and North-West Passage; and several by Tindeman, Reid, and – Queen Victoria’s own favourite &-dash; Sir Edwin Landseer.
  • The initial cost of the gallery had been £190,000 but later additions brought the total close to half a million pounds.
  • The building for the new gallery was designed by Sydney R. J. Smith, and opened by the Prince of Wales on 21 July 1897.
  • For twenty years the new gallery was administered by the National Gallery, of which Henry Tate had been made a trustee.
  • click link below to see Henry Tates collection
The Lady of Shalott 1888  - John William Waterhouse  Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894

The Lady of Shalott 1888 – John William Waterhouse
Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s