A minister's son, Henry Tate was born in 1819 in Chorley, Lancashire in the UK. At the age of 20 Henry began his career as an apprentice to his elder brother Caleb, a grocer in Liverpool. He went on to buy his own grocery store, and by the age of 36 was a successful businessman, with a chain of six shops in the Liverpool area.
Tate’s first venture into cane refining came in 1859 when he went into partnership with John Wright, a sugar refiner in Liverpool. When that partnership came to an end, Tate was joined in business by his two sons, Alfred and Edwin, and Henry Tate & Sons was formed.
Tate had an eye for innovation and technological advances. During the construction of the Love Lane Refinery in Liverpool in the early 1870s, he adapted the plans to incorporate a new refining technique to increase the yield of white sugar. When the refinery became operational in 1872, it produced 400 tons of sugar a week.
Tate was keen to extend his business, and saw London as a potentially profitable market. In 1878 Henry Tate & Sons opened Thames Refinery at Silvertown in East London, which is where Tate & Lyle-branded sugar is still made today.
Henry Tate was created a baronet in 1898 and died in 1899. Besides leaving money to many good causes, he bequeathed his collection of contemporary paintings to the nation, forming the nucleus of the famous Tate Gallery, now known as Tate Britain.