Henry Tate’s legacy: The Sugar Girls at South Lambeth Library

On Monday, we will be speaking at South Lambeth Library, along with two of the sugar girls whose stories feature prominently in our book: Gladys Hudgell and Eva Rodwell.  It’s a particularly appropriate location since the library is one of four in South London founded on gifts of land or money from Henry Tate, whose company subsequently merged with that of Abram Lyle to form Tate & Lyle.

Mr Tate was a generous philanthropist, and believed strongly that everyone should have access to books, regardless of how rich or poor they were. To this day, the gallery proudly proclaims itself the ‘Tate Free Library’.

Our local library in Brixton is another of Tate’s legacies, and it was there that we first began our research for the book, in early 2011.  Here you can see the bust of Mr Tate which stands outside in Windrush Square.

Tate also founded libraries in nearby Balham, and Streatham, where he himself lived. When he died in 1899 he was buried in West Norwood Cemetary.  His mausoleum is soon to attract a lot of attention when the Curious Trail exhibition opens on Friday 22nd June.  Belfast sculptor Brendan Jamison has recreated the tomb, carved out of Tate & Lyle sugar cubes.

Jamison’s mausoleum sculpture follows a previous commission to sculpt the Tate Modern building in sugar, a task which required 71,908 cubes. But many visitors to the various Tate art galleries around the country don’t realise the connection with the sugar magnate who first donated both his money and his personal art collection to help found the National Gallery of British Art, which subsequently became the Tate Gallery.

Aside from grand gestures of philanthropy, both Henry Tate and Abram Lyle were generous to their employees in the East End factories, and Gladys and Eva have fond memories of Abram’s eccentric grandson Oliver, who ran the old Lyle factory throughout the 1940s and 1950s.  The company provided extensive sports facilities, an on-site bar that was open throughout the day, and regular days out on beanos to Margate and Southend.

Come along on Monday to hear Gladys and Eva share their stories of working for Tate & Lyle.


Full details:

6.45pm on Monday 18th June

South Lambeth Library

180 South Lambeth Road

London SW8 1QP



  1. I have found the Sugar Girls story very interesting as both my grandfather and father worked in Tate & Lyles’ East End factories.

  2. J’ai 42 ans : je ne fait pas de problème là dessus .
    Mes parents m’ont appellée Amber et j’aime beaucoup ce prénom.
    Ce que je fais , géologue . Est-ce un défaut que d’être une vraie prune ?