Tate and Lyle Sugars in Silvertown celebrates 140 years with birthday party and 1,500 guests

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Tate and Lyle Sugars, based at the Thames Refinery in Silvertown, celebrated its 140th birthday last Friday.

Around 1,500 celebrated the milestone year, at a family fun day involving a bouncy castle, climbing wall, live music and fairground games.

A talk was given on the history of Tate and Lyle from senior vice president, Gerald Mason, and Newham’s mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, was on hand to cut the cake.

She said: “This is the first time I’ve been to someone’s 140th birthday party. I’d like to congratulate the staff team for a really enjoyable fun family event.

“I’d also like to convey my thanks and gratitude for the company’s presence in Newham, because I know it’s a significant employer of many of our residents and long may it continue thriving in our local area.”

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant


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The refinery was opened in 1878 by Henry Tate, a shopkeeper from Liverpool, in the same year of the first motion picture and lightbulb. In 1921, it merged with Abraham Lyle’s factory in Plaistow, and the business became Tate and Lyle.

Mr Mason said: “I think that if Henry Tate could see us today he’d be very proud. One thing I learnt about the history of the factory, was that in the first year of production, Henry Tate took his workers out by pony and track to Essex because they’d worked so hard.

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“They got into so much trouble they got arrested and the refinery didn’t start again until the following Tuesday. Even Henry Tate liked his employees to have a good time, so I’m sure he’d be proud of us today.”

There day included Tate and Lyle-themed activities, including a sugar cane juice stand, an old Tate and Lyle van, and a museum, which was being manned by the factory’s longest-serving employee, Alan Mead.

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Mr Mead said: “I’ve been employed by Tate and Lyle for 53 years.

“There’s been problems over the years, but days like this encourage people to look back and consider what’s happened in the past.

“The biggest change is the automation. When I started we were thousands of employees, now there are about 500.

“I helped design some of the analytical equipment when automation started, so I like to think I did a lot towards it.”

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears

Staff handing out cane juices. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

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