Sir Jacob Behrens
German Textile Merchant and loyal supporter of the Technical School.
The European merchants who migrated to Bradford in the nineteenth century were from
wealthy backgrounds attracted to the city by the prosperous textile trade. They found a town
with economic, political and religious freedom enabling them to have a leading role in the
town’s development. This group had a marked influence on Bradford which can still be seen
through the street names in the area known as Little Germany. Many found final resting
places at the splendid Undercliffe Cemetery.
Among them was Sir Jacob Behrens, the first textile export merchant in Bradford. Jacob came from a German family who had for generations traded in textiles. In 1834 Jacob Brehrens settled in Leeds, establishing his own firm which enabled him to finish cloth for the German market.
Jacob then helped with the transition of trading from Leeds by moving Bradford in 1838 to be, as he put it, ‘on the spot’, helping the town became the mercantile centre for the woollen textile industry. Behrens was instrumental in founding the Chamber of Commerce in Bradford, serving as vice president for seven years and president for six.
Jacob was not only a textile pioneer but pursued educational reform, founding Bradford High School which he and other businessmen set up primarily for the education of their own sons. The school later became Bradford Grammar School.
Along with fellow textile business men he campaigned for more textile training within the city and supported the opening of the new Technical School in 1882. In October that year he was knighted by Queen Victoria. He retained an involvement with the Technical School until his death in 1889.