Research: Meet the Neighbours – Sir Henry Tate from my hometown – Chorley, Lancashire, United Kingdom

Sir Henry Tate


Sir Henry Tate – Baronet

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

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

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.
  • The Lady of Shalott 1888  - John William Waterhouse  Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894 When Tate first opened its doors to the public in 1897 it had just one site, displaying a small collection of British artworks. Today Tate has four major sites and the national collection of British art from 1500 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art, which includes nearly 70,000 artworks. A number of new developments are planned for Tate Modern, Tate Britain  and Tate St Ives to ensure the galleries continue to expand.

    Henry Tate

    In 1889 Henry Tate, an industrialist who had made his fortune as a sugar refiner, offered his collection of British art to the nation. There was no space for it in the National Gallery and the creation of a new gallery dedicated to British art was seen as a worthwhile aim and the search for a suitable site began. This gallery would house not only Henry Tate’s gift but also the works of British artists from various other collections.

    Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, 'Ophelia' 1851-2

    Sir John Everett Millais, Bt
    Ophelia 1851-2
    Oil on canvas
    support: 762 x 1118 mm frame: 1105 x 1458 x 145 mm
    Presented by Sir Henry Tate 1894

    View the main page for this artwork

    The gallery at Millbank, London

    In 1892 the site of a former prison, the Millbank Penitentiary, was chosen for the new National Gallery of British Art, which would be under the Directorship of the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. The prison, used as the departure point for sending convicts to Australia, had been demolished in 1890.

    Sidney R.J. Smith was chosen as the architect for the new gallery. His design is the core building that we see today, a grand porticoed entranceway and central dome which resembles a temple. The statue of Britannia with a lion and a unicorn on top of the pediment at the Millbank entrance emphasised its function as a gallery of British art. The gallery opened its doors to the public in 1897, displaying 245 works in eight rooms from British artists dating back to 1790.

    Growth of the gallery

    Since its original opening, the Millbank site has had seven major building extensions. In its first 15 years the Millbank site more than doubled in size, including the addition of seven rooms designed by the architect W.H. Romaine-Walker and funded by the arts and antique dealer J.J.(Sir Joseph) Duveen, built to display the Turner Bequest.

    By 1917, the remit of the gallery changed. It was made responsible for the national collection of British art from 1500 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art Romaine-Walker was again commissioned to design the new Modern Foreign Galleries, which were funded by Joseph Duveen’s son, Lord Duveen. These opened in 1926 and a year later a series of murals by Rex Whistler were unveiled in the restaurant.

    Tate Gallery

    In 1932, the gallery officially adopted the name Tate Gallery, by which it had popularly been known as since its opening. In 1937, the new Duveen Sculpture Galleries opened. Funded by Lord Duveen and designed by John Russell Pope, Romaine-Walker and Gilbert Jenkins, these two 300 feet long barrel-vaulted galleries were the first public galleries in England designed specifically for the display of sculpture. By this point, electric lighting had also been installed in all the rooms enabling the gallery to stay open until 5pm whatever the weather.

    In 1955, Tate Gallery became wholly independent from the National Gallery and discussions began on an extension that would increase the its exhibition space. A major extension in the north-east corner, designed by Richard Llewelyn-Davies opened in 1979. In the same year, the gallery took over the adjacent disused military hospital, enabling the building of the new Clore Gallery, designed by Sir James Stirling and funded by the Clore Foundation. It opened in 1987 and went on to win a Royal Institute of British Architects award the following year.

    Tate Britain Millbank entrance from across the street
    The Tate Liverpool gallery building, on the Albert Dock

    The Tate Liverpool gallery building, on the Albert Dock

    Tate Liverpool

    In the 1980s Alan Bowness, then director of Tate, decided to create a ‘Tate of the North’, as the project became known. This would be a gallery with a distinct identity, dedicated to showing modern art and encouraging a new, younger audience through an active education programme.

    A warehouse at the disused Albert Dock in Liverpool was chosen as the site for the new gallery. The dock, once a bustling site crammed with rich cargos from Asia, tea, silk, tobacco and spirits, was derelict. In 1981 the dockyard underwent a rejuvenation, with the Maritime Museum leasing one of the warehouses and restaurants and bars opening.

    In 1985, James Stirling was commissioned to design the new Tate Gallery at Liverpool. His designs left the exterior of the brick and stone building built over a colonnade of sturdy Doric columns almost untouched, but transformed the interior into an arrangement of simple, elegant galleries suitable for the display of modern art. It opened to the public in May 1988.

    2008 marked the year Liverpool was named European Capital of Culture. To celebrate this, in 2007 the gallery hosted the Turner Prize, the first time the competition was held outside London. more than 600,000 visitors a year visit Tate Liverpool, cementing its position as a venue for major European exhibitions of modern art.

    Tate St Ives

    St Ives, a small Cornish town on the southwest coast of England, perhaps seems an unlikely site for a major art gallery. However, its artistic connections date back to Victorian times when numerous artists came to St Ives to paint, attracted by its special quality of light. Artists associated with the town include Barbara HepworthNaum Gabo, Alfred Wallis and Mark Rothko.

    Tate had formed a close link with St Ives when it took over the management of the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden in 1980. By the middle of the decade it was decided a gallery should be built there to show works by artists who had lived or worked in St Ives, loaned from the collection.

    In 1988, a building was chosen on the site of a former gasworks overlooking Porthmeor Beach and the Atlantic Ocean. The architects Eldred Evans and David Shalev were selected for designs that echoed the shapes of the former gasworks, including the rotunda that forms the heart of the gallery.

    Building work began in 1991, funded by donations from the local community, the Henry Moore Foundation and the European Regional Development Fund. The Tate Gallery, St Ives opened in June 1993 and in just six months welcomed over 120,000 visitors – 50,000 more than the original target for the entire year. Since then, the gallery has been an outstanding success with an average of 240,000 visitors per year.

    An exciting development is now planned for Tate St Ives, which will provide better exhibition and display spaces, new education areas and improved visitor facilities, allowing greater scope for understanding the heritage of the St Ives artists’ colony.

    Tate St Ives seen from Porthmeor Beach in the summer

    Tate Modern

    In December 1992 the Tate Trustees announced their intention to create a separate gallery for international modern and contemporary art in London.

    The former Bankside Power Station was selected as the new gallery site in 1994. The following year, Swiss architects Herzog & De Meuron were appointed to convert the building into a gallery. That their proposal retained much of the original character of the building was a key factor in this decision.

    The iconic power station, built in two phases between 1947 and 1963, was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. It consisted of a stunning turbine hall, 35 metres high and 152 metres long, with the boiler house alongside it and a single central chimney. However, apart from a remaining operational London Electricity sub-station the site had been redundant since 1981.

    In 1996 the design plans were unveiled and, following a £12 million grant from the English Partnerships regeneration agency, the site was purchased and work began. The huge machinery was removed and the building was stripped back to its original steel structure and brickwork. The turbine hall became a dramatic entrance and display area and the boiler house became the galleries.

    Since it opened in May 2000, more than 40 million people have visited Tate Modern. It is one of the UK’s top three tourist attractions and generates an estimated £100 million in economic benefits to London annually.

    In 2009 Tate embarked on a major project to develop Tate Modern. Working again with Herzog & de Meuron, the transformed Tate Modern will make use of the power station’s spectacular redundant oil tanks, increase gallery space and provide much improved visitor facilities.

    The Swiss Light at Tate Modern lit up at night, 2000

    Tate Modern lit up at night, 2000

    A family of galleries

    With the creation of the new gallery at Bankside, the gallery at Millbank was able to return to its original function as the national gallery of British art. In preparation for this, a major Centenary Development project was completed, providing the site with ten new galleries, five refurbished galleries and a dramatic new entrance on Atterbury Street.

    In 2000, the four galleries were re-branded with the opening of the new gallery at Bankside: Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives.

    A number of building projects are now underway to further develop and expand the galleries.


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