Sir Ratan Tata
1871 - 1918
Brings the Statues to York House
The last private owner of York House was Sir Ratan Tata, the younger of two sons of the Indian industrialist Jamseti Tata. Sir Ratan had a passion for the arts and enjoyed being able to indulge his well developed aesthetic sense. He owned some of the most extraordinary, elegant homes, including York House in Twickenham, which he bought from the Duc d'Orleans. He purchased and installed the collection of Carrara marble statues from an estate in Surrey, which form such a prominent feature of the gardens today. After the death of his widow, York House was purchased by the Twickenham Borough Council and the first Council meeting was held there in 1926.
A passion for Oriental arts and culture
Sir Ratan built the elegant and exquisite mansion Tata House, in Bombay. His deep interest and discerning eye for art led to the finest collection of that time, which he bequeathed to the Prince of Wales Museum, Bombay. The museum was free so that the widest cross-section of people were able to appreciate, value and gain as much as he did from his collection. Sir Ratan endowed a house at Shantiniketan for European research scholars coming to India to study Oriental literature and culture. He funded the first archaeological excavation at Pataliputra between 1913 to 1917, which resulted in the discovery of the 100-column Mauryan throne room in Ashoka's palace.
Ideas ahead of his time
A sensitive and artistic personality, Sir Ratan was a man whose ideas were far ahead of his time. He supported the non-cooperation movement in South Africa in 1912, led by a then relatively unknown lawyer -- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He extended financial support to Gopal Krishna Gokhale, to set up the Servants of India Society.
Always aware and concerned by poverty and destitution, in 1912 he encouraged the University of London to institute a Chair at the London School of Economics to investigate and research into the causes of destitution and poverty.
In 1918 at the age of 47, Sir Ratan died leaving his widow, Lady Navajbai Tata, who was to outlive him by 44 years. In his will he bequeathed property worth Rs. 8.1 million to a trust fund and noted:
"If I leave no children, I give the rest of the residue of my property -- for the advancement of education, learning and industry in all its branches including education in economy, sanitary science and art, or for the relief of human suffering or for other works of public utility -- such work is not (to be) undertaken from a stereotyped point of view but from the point of view of fresh light that is thrown from day to day by the advance of science and philosophy on problems of human well-being."