Richard Bate was born in England and moved early in life to Norristown. He was trained at the Norristown Iron Works where his father was superintendent in the blacksmith and boiler making trades. In 1865 he entered into a business partnership with his father and John Wood. The newly formed company operated as William T. Bate and Co. When Wood retired the business was re-organized as William T. Bate and Son. The company was located in Conshohocken. The firm engaged in the manufacturing of boilers, gas apparatus and castings. The company utilized their own patents in the boiler business and was for a time associated with balloonist Thaddeus Lowe of Civil War fame. Politically a Republican, Bate served as Third Ward Councilman in Conshohocken for several terms.
On August 31, 1866, he married Mary Markley Murray. They had 7 children. Bate was a member of Company E 34th Pennsylvania Militia serving during Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania. He did not see any action. In addition to his business interests, Bate was a director in the following enterprises: the First National Bank in Conshohocken, the Conshohocken Electric Light Company, and the Conshohocken Gas Company.