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18 June 2014
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Legacies - Liverpool

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Tate & Lyle factory
Ariel shot of Tate & Lyle factory, 1960s

© Scottie Press
Tate and Lyle: Sugar love

Family of workers

The Tate Liverpool stands proudly on the River Mersey – just a couple of miles from the original sugar firm which once employed thousands of local workers. Like most factories, especially in the early part of the 20th Century, the jobs were hard and repetitious. Many women workers started by brushing up the sugar from the floor, before moving on to weighing by hand and packing into cardboard boxes.
Tate girls
Tate girls on shift
© Scottie Press
Juniors, usually straight from school and working in the “tannery”, used to have to stack 56lb bags of sugar onto a pallet, 5 ft high – and then the men would come along with a truck and take it away.

The sugar dust was a problem, one 15-year-old remembers stopping regularly to empty the sugar from her white ankle socks. The older girls used to wear stockings, with a broad elastic band to hold them up – long before the days of tights, and it was not uncommon to see them standing at bus stops, with clouds of sugar dust floating from their stockings as they snapped the elastic bands!

But despite the heat and the monotony of their day, the Tate and Lyle “girls” used to find fun in the most unlikely ways, and they all became part of a family.

Words: Ev Draper

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