The third day – Tate & Lyle in Silvertown

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Our third and final day trip on Henry’s Trail took us to the Tate & Lyle Thames Refinery, in Silvertown.


An early archival photograph of the original packaging of Tate Cube Sugars…


And Tate & Lyle sugar as we know it today.


Ken Wilson gave us a presentation about the process of refining sugar at the Tate & Lyle Thames Refinery, and the history of Tate & Lyle.

“I was surprised to hear that the sugar still arrives by ship, coming right up the Thames to the factory pier. The warehouses near Tower Bridge have all been turned into flats and restaurants long ago and I didn’t realise there were cargo ships still making deliveries. I thought everything went by road these days, so good to find the river is still a real thoroughfare.” — Caroline Hendrie





“Val getting into a debate, a deep conversation there.” — Elouise Ferron

“I think he was trying to say something I maybe disagreed with.”  – Valerie Lindo

“The debate ended happily with everyone who took part feeling satisfied they’d been right all along.” — Caroline Hendrie



Kitted out in hard hats, goggles and high-vis jackets, on our way to a site-visit of the factory.





“There were slogans and safety notices everywhere. The current posters were more subtle, with positive messages like ‘this woman helps avoid 90 per cent of on site injuries by tidying her work station, do you?” In the museum there was one saying “Employees going from floor to floor must use the stairs or lift. Anyone sliding down the shoots will be dismissed.” I wonder if it was only Tate himself who was allowed to slide down the shoot, like Willy Wonka.” – Caroline Hendrie





“JCB sugar scoop! …The smell of cane sugar in the air was amazing”

– Laura Hemming-Lowe

“I was astounded that sugar looking like a pile of sand sits in an open shed with pigeons flapping about. And then it ends up in bags on a supermarket shelf.”

– Caroline Hendrie



On our way out of Silvertown we passed by the old Tate Institute, on the junction of Wythes Road and Connaught Road.


Tate built the Institute opposite his Silvertown factory for the benefit of his workers, in 1887. The Institute was open until 1933, when it was sold to be used as the local library. With the library on the top floor, the ground floor was used for regular social events by local residents and Tate & Lyle employees. It’s now disused and has been boarded up, but there are plans to renovate and re-open it.


“They’ll have to use it for something. They need to use buildings instead of leaving them empty!” — Elouise Ferron