Exhibition of memorabilia at Tate & Lyle Sugars factory in Silvertown open for educational or group visits

PUBLISHED: 10:10 25 August 2013 | UPDATED: 10:25 25 August 2013

Community Affairs Manager Ken Wilson at  the Tate&Lyle Sugars' memorabilia centre in Silvertown.

Community Affairs Manager Ken Wilson at the Tate&Lyle Sugars' memorabilia centre in Silvertown.


A growing collection of company memorabilia at the famous Tate & Lyle Sugars factory in Silvertown is open for educational visits.

Abram LyleAbram Lyle

The walls of its ‘mini museum’ are decorated with old oil paintings of the company’s two founders, Abram Lyle, who built the Plaistow Wharf refinery in 1881, and Henry Tate, who expanded his business to Silvertown in 1878.

Black and white photographs displayed in cabinets show women working at the factory while men were fighting in the Great War.

Community affairs manager Ken Wilson tells the fascinating tale of how hundreds of sugar refineries competed for trade. While most fell by the wayside, these two bitter rivals survived and merged after the deaths of Mr Tate and Mr Lyle.

Ken said Henry Tate’s key to success was purchasing the patent for making sugar cubes.

Workers at Tate&Lyle when the sugar used to go into sacksWorkers at Tate&Lyle when the sugar used to go into sacks

Refined sugar used to come in big sugar loaves, which were then cut into chunks using various tools now on display as museum pieces.

Ken said: “When granulated sugar was introduced, people were still struggling to get use to it and the cubes were more similar to the lumpy sugar they were used to from the loaves.”

Abraham Lyle, like many, struggled in the competitive granulated market but started producing syrup as a by-product.

Ken said: “People who couldn’t afford sugar would buy syrup, which was dispensed from a big container into small jars in the shops.

Birds eye view of Tate&LyleBirds eye view of Tate&Lyle

“Soon Lyle realised that it was so popular that he began producing the famous small tins we still know today.”

Educational visits by schools and other groups can be arranged through Ken Wilson via the company’s website.

Please see the related weblinks, on the right hand side of this article, for more Tate & Lyle features on the factory’s fight for EU survival and our visit to the factory.

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