The ‘Tate’ of Tate and Lyle fame, was born in Chorley and was the son of a clergyman. He started out at age 16 as an apprentice in the grocery trade, but by age 20 had set up his own shop which soon became a chain of 5 shops. In 1859 he sold his shops and became a partner in a sugar refining company. By 1869 he had full control of the business and in 1872 he patented a new method of cutting sugar into cubes. He built a new sugar refinery in Liverpool (coincidentally in the Vauxhall area) and his business boomed.
He quickly became a millionaire and gave generously to charities, colleges (including Harris–Manchester College, Oxford), hospitals and libraries (including University College, Liverpool – now Liverpool University)). In 1893 he set up free libraries for the London boroughs of Battersea, Brixton, and Streatham. The Tate Library, South Lambeth Road is one of these free libraries.
He founded The Tate Gallery, on the site of the old Millbank prison, by paying the building costs and by donating his own collection of 65 paintings to form the nucleus of the collection. The Gallery was formally opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales on 21 July 1897. Tate became a baronet in 1898 but died the following year.