Sue Young Histories

Henry Tate 1819 – 1899

October 30, 2008

Henry Tate, 1st Baronet 1819 – 1899 was an English sugar merchant from Chorley, noted for establishing the Tate Gallery in London.

Henry Tate funded the Liverpool Homeopathic Hospital in 1886. Henry Tate also funded* the Hahnemann Hospital and Dispensary in London (*This claim was made in the Obituary article in the New York Times on 6th December 1899 (See, but this cannot be true as the Hahnemann Hospital and Dispensary in London had closed before Henry Tate had made his fortune).

Henry Tate was the Deputy Chairman of the Liverpool Homeopathic Hospital, and he was a major Sponsor of the Homeopathic Convalescent Home in Eastbourne,

Henry Tate’s wife continued to support homeopathy throughout her life. The Hahnemann Hospital, 42 Hope Street, was built and equipped by Henry Tate (later Sir Henry Tate) as a free gift to the citizens of Liverpool, and was presented in September 1887. The hospital was erected with a view to its being incorporated with the Homeopathic Dispensary, and so was named the ‘Liverpool Hahnemann Hospital and Dispensary’, for the treatment of the poor, both as in and out patients. At that time, Liverpool was very important as a major UK port and linked both with the Tate sugar family [and therefore with the West Indies], who sponsored the building of the Hahnemann Hospital in Liverpool, [later the Tate Gallery in London] and also the direct link with America as a trading port and for passengers travelling or emigrating from northern England and Ireland to the USA. It is most probable that this link worked to benefit communication between British and American homeopathy throughout the 19th century. Henry Tate was born in Chorley, Lancashire, the son of a clergyman. When he was 13, he became a grocer’s apprentice in Liverpool. After a seven-year apprenticeship, he was able to set up his own shop. His business was successful, and grew to a chain of six stores by the time he was 35.

In 1859 Tate became a partner in John Wright & Co. sugar refinery, and he sold his grocery business in 1861. By 1869, he had gained complete control of the company, and renamed it to Henry Tate & Sons. In 1872, he purchased the patent from German Eugen Langen on a method of making sugar cubes, and in the same year built a new refinery in Liverpool.

Tate rapidly became a millionaire, and donated generously to charity. In 1889 he donated his collection of 65 contemporary paintings to the government, on the condition that they be displayed in a suitable gallery, toward the construction of which he also donated £80,000.

The National Gallery of British Art, better known as the Tate Gallery, was opened on July 21, 1897, on the site of the old Millbank Prison.

Henry Tate was a modest rather retiring man, well known for his concern with workers’ conditions. He refused a knighthood more than once until - after he had spent over £100,000 to build the Millbank Gallery, endowed it with his personal collection, and presented it to the nation - he was told the Royal Family would be offended if he refused again.

Tate made many donations, often anonymously, and always discreetly. They included £42,500 for Liverpool University, £3500 for Bedford College for Women, and £5000 for building a free library in Streatham; additional provisions were made for libraries in Balham, South Lambeth, and Brixton.

There was £10,000 for the library of Manchester College, Oxford, and, also to Manchester College, £5000 to promote the ‘theory and art of preaching’. In addition he gave £20,000 to the (homeopathic) Hahnemann Hospital in Liverpool in 1885, £8000 to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary, and £5000 to the Queen Victoria Jubilee Institute, which became the Queen’s Institute for District Nurses. In 1887 he gave £5000 to the Tate Institute in Silvertown.

Tate was made a baronet in 1898, the year before his death. He lived at Park Hill by Streatham Common, south London, and is buried in nearby West Norwood Cemetery, the gates of which are located opposite a public library that he endowed. Park Hill became a nunnery after his death until refurbishment as housing.

In 1921, after Tate’s death, Henry Tate & Sons merged with Abram Lyle & Sons to form Tate & Lyle.

In 2001, a blue plaque commemorating Sir Henry was unveiled on the site of his first shop at 42 Hamilton Street, Birkenhead. In 2006 a Wetherspoons pub in his home town of Chorley was named after the sugar magnate.

Of interest:

Edwin Tate was also involved with the Liverpool Homeopathic Hospital.

Robert Stark Tate 1818 - 1880 LSA London 1841, MRCS England 1846,was a British orthodox physician, Member of the Royal College of Surgeons England, who converted to homeopathy to become Surgeon to the Sunderland Homeopathic Dispensary, Surgeon at the London Homeopathic Hospital, Member of the British Homeopathic Society,

Robert Stark Tate practiced at 1 Bennett Place, Blackheath, and at 20, St. John’s Street, Sunderland,

William Henry Tate, son of Henry Tate, and his wife were also involved in the Liverpool Homeopathic Hospital.


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