Jacob Behrens was born in November 1806 in Bad Pyrmont, Lower Saxony, Germany. His father Nathan was a successful cloth merchant of the time. In 1815 the family moved to Hamburg and established a textile import business, particularly with cloth and materials from England.
Leaving the Hamburg end of the business to his brother Edward, Jacob rented a small factory in Leeds, where in March 1834, starting out with a single rolling machine and two wooden presses, he established ‘Jacob Behrens’.
With Jacob’s brother Louis joining him in England, the company moved to new premises on Thornton Road in Bradford, becoming the first textile export merchant to be established in the city. At this time, Bradford was a prominent international trading centre for wool and textiles.
The company expanded into the cotton industry and established a branch in Tib Lane, Manchester, England.
Sir Jacob Behrens was knighted for his work in strengthening trade relations between Britain and France. Particularly the Paris Commercial Treaty of 1860. Queen Victoria carried out the ceremony at Windsor Castle on the 8th August, 1882.
Sir Jacob Behrens passed away at the age of 83 on the 22nd of April.
The second son of Sir Jacob, Sir Charles Behrens became Lord Mayor of Manchester and served two terms of office.
Gustav Behrens, the son of Jacob, celebrated fifty years of running the business as Managing Director, overseeing the continued growth and development of the company. His philanthropic contribution to the local community included the founding of the Halle Concert Orchestra Society in Manchester.
The Manchester office moved to new premises in Chepstow House from its previous base on Princess Street. This position offered the promise of better trade links with the rest of the UK and the company’s expanding business in Europe. The Yorkshire office continued to trade successfully as it had done for nearly 100 years.
The business moved forward again with the takeover of notable trading competitors, Pickford & Gilbert and Wallis Young. These identities would later become used as commercial brands within today’s home textiles division.
Behrens continued to evolve with the times and became a major fabric supplier to the UK domestic garment manufacturing market.
The company celebrated a notable anniversary, whilst retaining the prestige of being a family business, which it still enjoys to this day.
The British manufacturing industry underwent a decline due to increased overseas competition. Behrens addressed this by using strong global links to develop a growing export business, supplying fabrics to Europe and the rest of the world.
Another significant date was achieved and the company celebrated by hosting a special dinner, with a French themed menu carefully put together to reflect the trading relationship and the Paris Commercial Treaty of 1860 that Sir Jacob Behrens helped establish all those years before.
As the business continues to diversify into new market opportunities, the company moved to larger premises with a purpose-built warehouse to accommodate the growing demands placed upon the business.