Posted By The Sugar Girls ~ 11th April 2012
We always knew that Tate & Lyle was a family firm, in more ways than one. Not only did the Tate and Lyle families used to run their two old East End factories, but many generations of workers within a single family would often work there side by side.
Even so, the story we heard recently from Joan Lewis is quite remarkable. Her great grandfather Hugh McMarth was one of the original workers who came down from Scotland with Abram Lyle in the 1880s to start up the Plaistow Wharf Refinery. The family had a house built for them in Boxley Street, Silvertown, and settled there. When their children left school, they went to work at Tate & Lyle as well, although one was killed in the Silvertown Explosion of 19 January 1917.
Joan’s grandfather, Hugh Jnr, became a manager at Tate & Lyle, and his own children followed him into the factory too – Joan’s father William was an apprentice tin-printer and eventually a lorry driver, while her aunt Mary worked on the Hesser Floor in the 1940s and 1950s with some of our sugar girls, and remained in Silvertown until the 1990s.
Even today, Joan has a cousin working for Tate & Lyle, and she has fond childhood memories of the children’s parties and trips to Olympia to see the ice skating that the company would lay on. She still visits Boxley Street from time to time, but told us that ‘Silvertown has changed so much from the days when most of my neighbours made their way to work in Tate & Lyle.’
Joan sent us the following wonderful photographs of her family in Silvertown.