Nigel Grizzard (1984 and 2007) Additional material and locations (c) Marcus Roberts (2007)


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Famous German Jewish Merchants

Among the German Jewish merchants several names stand out. Jacob Behrens (1806 1889) was the first foreign merchant to export wool goods from Bradford. He was born in Pyrmont, Waldeck, Germany, and was brought up in Hamburg, the son of Nathan Behrens. When he arrived in the town he lodged at the Sun Inn at the bottom of Ivegate, but left his lodging because he was told, 'he could not stay as he took nothing to drink.'

His business grew into a multi million pound empire with branches in London, Glasgow, Calcutta and Shanghai. He was knighted in October 1882 by Queen Victoria for his work in connection with commercial treaties between England and France. His name can still be seen, cast in iron, above the entry to his warehouse.

Behrens also had interests out-side of business and was recognised in his obituary as, '...a gentleman of culture and a philanthropist'. He was very active in promoting education in Bradford. He was significant in re-organising Bradford Grammar School in 1871 and he was very important in setting up the Technical College, in Great Horton Road, in 1882.

Jacob Unna (1800 1881), one of Bradford's leading industrialists and an important developer of the Bradford worsted trade and originally represented the Behren's concern. Unna was born in Hamburg and came to Manchester in 1820, moved to Leeds and settled in Bradford in 1844. In 1836 Unna returned to Hamburg to marry his cousin Serina Salomon and I have seen a copy of the Ketubah (Hebrew marriage certificate) in the possession of his great grandson Mr. Charles Russell. Unna (with Behrens) was a founder of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce in 1851. This was part of an efficient marketing system that was vital to the success of the Bradford merchants. He was also a leading local freemason, in an era when many Jews found social acceptance and advancement through the Masonic orders.

Charles Joseph Semon (1814 1877) was the first Jewish Mayor of Bradford in 1864. A native of Danzig, he was first foreign born and Jewish Mayor of the town. He was an active member of the Chamber of Commerce and served for many years on its Council and in 1871 was made its Vice-President. It was on his initiative that the Bradford Chamber of Commerce conducted meetings with Romania which brought great benefit to the textile trade of Bradford. He was also a Justice of the Peace for both the Borough and the county and a Deputy Lieutenant of the West Riding of Yorkshire. He was also well known for his charitable and philanthropic work.

Jacob Moser (1839 1922) was one of the most influential and important Jews in Bradford, one of the group of 'merchant princes', the foremost Jews in Bradford which also included Semon. He was an important Zionist, urging the formation of a Jewish state in Israel. He was a member of the Zionist General Council, the board of the Jewish Colonial Trust, the Anglo Palestine Corporation, the Jewish National Fund and the presidium of a number of Zionist Congresses. Moser was at the heart of the movement. He was also a major philanthropist; he gave away some £300,000 in his lifetime to charities for all races and creeds. He was also Lord Mayor of Bradford.

There were other significant families besides these. The Sichels, Rothensteins, Wolfes, the Halles and others all contributed to Victorian Bradford. Some three generations of the Sichels were active in Bradford in the Textile industry and were Vice-consuls.

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