Records can trace the Tate family living and working on the land in the Sussex area as early as 1601. By 1782, William Tate was known in the Findon area primarily as a timber merchant, with Thomas and James Tate were working as blacksmiths and Sarah Tate as a dressmaker. By the mid 1800s, the main trade was as wheelwrights and master carpenters. George, and then his sons James and George Junior would work with oak in the summer, and ash, beech and elm in the winter to produce cart and coach wheels for the local area.
By the 1870’s, the Tate family had extended into Portslade where Thomas Tate was landlord of the Clarendon Arms pub and James Tate worked as both a butcher and a shop keeper. During the late 1800s Alfred Tate started a laundry on the corner of Foredown Drive and Old Shoreham Road in Portslade. Most laundries were transporting their goods by horse and cart at the time, but after a car accident in 1896 Alfred converted a Daimler to what is regarded to be the first commercial vehicle in Sussex, using the cart top of a horse drawn vehicle to achieve this conversion. The business was ultimately taken over by his sons Albert and Fred, who started to operate a film transportation business. To keep their film distribution vehicles in shape, they built a small corrugated shed alongside the Southern Cross laundry to carry out simple repairs on their vans. They were soon helping to fix others vehicles. Word grew that this was the place you could take your vehicle to be repaired, adding another arm to their business. The Tate brothers expanded their workshop as more and more customers came to see the Tate brothers for parts and repairs. In 1929 the Brothers purchased a corner site at Southern Cross in Portslade which now operates as head office for the family’s motor business.
The outbreak of the Second World War lead to the car business taking a back seat while the family concentrated on engineering activities that would help the war effort. Being close to the coast and a port town, the Tate Brothers became actively involved in ship salvage. After the war demand for cars surged, and suddenly Albert found both the engineering and the car firm very busy, so he approached his son John to see if he would run the car business. A young new member of the family coming in to an old established business brought with it pioneering changes.
In 1982, horticulturist Jonathan Tate joined the family business and started about establishing a plant nursery in mid Sussex propagating unusual plants for sale to members of the public. Inspired by the new concept of the garden centre emerging in the UK, where people could visit and purchase everything they needed for their garden from one place, he set about developing what is now Tates of Sussex Garden Centres.