Another organisation originally from Greenock who set up around this time was Abram Lyle & Sons. They opened a refinery at Plaistow Wharf in 1881, known for producing ‘Golden Syrup’. Despite the two namesakes purportedly never actually meeting, Tate and Lyle became bitter business rivals.
The two companies continued in competition until 1921, when a merger gave us the now internationally famous brand.
At the time of the merger the two companies were refining around 50% of all sugar in the UK, and by 1939 had become the largest refiner in the world, producing around 14,000 tons a week.
Despite suffering from German bombing during the Second World War the company continued to flourish in the post-war world and was one of the few British industries to avoid nationalisation under Clement Atlee’s Labour government.
This was in no small part thanks to the creation and work of ‘Mr. Cube’ in 1949, a mascot whose promotional use helped keep the company in private hands.
The impact of the organisation, and its predecessors, on the local area was huge. ‘Everyone knew someone who worked at Tate’s’ said one former resident in 2018.
As well as employing upwards of 5,000 residents at the company’s peak, Tate and Lyle also left their mark in other ways. Henry Tate opened the Tate Institute in 1887 – a community centre where dances and social nights continued for workers up until the 1990s.
Meanwhile Lyle Park opened in 1924 on land gifted to the local authority by Abram Lyle. Workers and their families were also able to enjoy a wide range of recreational facilities courtesy of the company, including a wealth of sports teams, while the Tate & Lyle Christmas parties are the stuff of local legend.
Today the organisation continues to employ over 4,000 people and remains an iconic fixture on the Silvertown skyline.
The Islanders Themes
Prior to the nineteenth century, the patch of land we know today as Silvertown and North Woolwich existed as a barren, uninhabited marshland called Plaistow…
Every community has its characters – they could be larger than life or simply have unusual occupations.
With British imperialism at its most expansionist during the first half of the nineteenth century, the need for commercial docks to bring in goods taken…
Prior to the opening of the Victoria Dock in 1855 there were very few factories in the area. Ditchburn & Mare Shipbuilding Company (later to become Thames…
Making a Home
One of the most enduring symbols of Silvertown’s industrial legacy is Tate & Lyle – the sugar refiners whose existence can be traced back to the early…
Second World War
Few places in Britain felt the impact of the Second World War harder than the East End of London. With so much industry concentrated in this part of the…
Living with the River
Our community has lived with the river and all it brings for generations. Nowadays there is protection from flooding thanks to the structure dubbed the…
Parks and Recreation
For generations those in the community in Silvertown and North Woolwich have made their own entertainment.
Photo: Newham Archives and Local Studies Library