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Tate and Lyle Silo





The Silo



If you travel along the dock road out of Liverpool you will see a surprising structure of concrete which dominates the corner of Bankfield street and Derby road. It is one of the most unusual and unique dock buildings in Liverpool, a city with a rich selection of dock buildings of all ages. 












Built in 1955-57 for Tate and Lyle to store sugar as it came in to the port of Liverpool. The building is of a very simplistic design as was the fashion of the 1950's with a single chamber tunnel vault with entrance and windows at both ends.







From the 17th century the amount of sugar used by Europeans soared. Its use, particularly in the 'new' drinks of tea, coffee and chocolate, and later in hot puddings, helped sugar to become an everyday commodity imported in large quantities to satisfy demand. The sugar producers Tate and Lyle commissioned the Cementation Company to build a new, state-of-the-art silo at the Huskisson Dock site in Liverpool. This enormous project, which started in 1955, took about two and a half years to complete. It was built to serve their Love Lane refinery. Work started in 1955 and took nearly two and a half years to complete.




The building consists of 12 sections, each supported by six external 'ribs.' A scaffolding frame was made, over which a steel skin was laid. Over this, a wooden template was assembled which was used to form the walls and supporting ribs. Once ready, the mould was filled with wet concrete and when each section had dried, the wooden template was dismantled and the steel skin moved along so that the next one could be made.






The conveyor belt housing and the tower


In addition to the main silo, a conveyor belt and tower were constructed to transport the sugar from the ships in dock up to the overhead conveyor running along the underside of the silo roof. The sugar was then dropped from here into the silo below. The building was completed by the end of 1957, measured 86,000 sq ft and could accommodate 100,000 tons of sugar.

An internal view of the Tates Silo. As an indication of scale, a lorry can be seen tipping its load of sugar into the back of the building.


Tate and Lyle announced its intention to close its Love Lane refinery in 1971, but it wasn't until 22 January 1981, that workers at Tate and Lyle were issued 90-day redundancy notices and, after 99 years, sugar refining at Love Lane ceased with the loss of 2,000 jobs.

Many people consider concrete to be an ugly and purely functional material. Its use in the soaring curves of this silo shows its possibilities and justifies the categorising of the structure as a Grade II Listed Building. Today it is owned by Mersey Docks and Peel Ports. Alternative uses have been proposed for the silo including repurposing the building as an arts and music venue. In November 2003, mobile phone company Orange organised a one-off concert featuring a number of local and national bands. The building has appeared in many books and publications including 1001 buildings you must see before you die - Mark Irving,



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Sources
Liverpool Central Library
Liverpool Records Office
Nick Gladden
English Heritage


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