Jacob Unna 1800-1881

Jacob Unna 1800-1881

Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1800, Jacob Arnold Unna was the son of Asher Kusel Unna and Frederike Weinberg, and the grandson of Kusel Ascher Unna and Hannah Kershel. He came to England in 1820 as a young man with the spice of adventure and a zest for ambition and achievement. First arriving in Manchester, we would then hone his prospects over the Pennines in prosperous Leeds. He finally settled in Bradford in 1844, two years before the arrival of the fortune changing railway which opened on 1st July 1846.  So Unna would transfer his worsted trade business from Leeds, with his eyes firmly on the future, seeing Bradford as the next major boomtown. And boom it did.

“By 1841 there were 38 worsted mills in Bradford town and 70 in the borough and it was estimated that two-thirds of the country’s wool production was processed in Bradford. Less than ten years later, Bradford had become the wool capital of the world with a population of 100,000 leading to the development of a solid engineering and manufacturing base and a key financial centre which has continued to flourish ever since” . [1]

This move proved significant to the commercial history of Bradford due to Unna’s later association with the city’s Chamber of Commerce.

Although Unna did not have as bigger impact on Bradford’s Jewish life as Jacob Behrens, Jacob Moser and Charles Semon, he still played a significant role in Jewish life and the wool trade within Bradford.

In 1851 he founded the Bradford Chamber of Commerce along with Jacob Behrens and Charles Semon and regularly attended meetings, steering the decision making within the local business world. He was a promoter of the Bradford District Bank and financially supported Bradford’s Eye and Ear hospital. This building is now completely demolished, having been cleared in the 1970′s. Now the site of ‘Infirmary Fields’ it was between Westgate (opposite the New Beehive Pub) and Lumb Lane.

He became a Grandmaster Freemason, where he founded Harmony Lodge and benevolently he gave an extraordinary generous amount to charity in the spirit of the times, as many wealthy Victorian businessman felt it their duty to help the poor and needy. Matching Semon and Moser, a great many peoples lives were enhanced because of his untoward generosity.

Jacob Unna's foundation stone. It reads 'THIS MEMORIAL STONE WAS LAID BY JACOB ARNOLD UNNA ESQ, TUESDAY | 25th OF NISSAN 5640 6th OF APRIL 1880

Jacob Unna’s memorial stone. It reads ‘THIS MEMORIAL STONE WAS LAID BY JACOB ARNOLD UNNA ESQ, TUESDAY | 25th OF NISSAN 5640, 6th OF APRIL 1880

In 1880, as the ‘Grand Old Man’ of the newly formed Bradford Jewish Community, he laid the foundation memorial stone for the future Reform Synagogue. A plaque is still clearly visible on the interior wall of the Synagogue which reads ‘reads ‘THIS MEMORIAL STONE WAS LAID BY JACOB ARNOLD UNNA ESQ, TUESDAY | 25th OF NISSAN 5640, 6th OF APRIL 1880′.

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Tombstone of Jacob Unna 1800-1881, Scholemore Cemetery, Bradford.

Towards the end of his life he was left a widower after his wife Serine (nee Salomon) (1812-1877), who was born in Anverscov near Copenhagen, Denmark  died four years before his own death. In terms of the fruits of their marriage, they brought into the world a son, Charles Frederic (1837-1890) and two surviving daughters, Violetta Anna (1840-18) (known as Etta) and Emily Caroline 1853-1877. She was named in memory of a sister, Caroline Susanna (1842-1851) who tragically died as a child.

The Unna Bernheim Family Tree

The Unna Bernheim Family Tree

At death, Jacob Unna was given masonic honours in his last rights. He is buried in Scholemoor Cemetery near Lidget Green in Bradford. His grave also contain the last mortal remains of his beloved wife Serine .

 [1] http://www.visitbradford.com/things-to-do/history-of-bradford.aspx

The following paragraphs have been sourced from Marcus Roberts JTrails  Jewish Heritage Tours website http://www.jtrails.org.uk/trails/bradford/places-of-interest and were authored by Nigel Grizzard.


 2 Eldon Place — Home of Jacob Unna

Jacob Unna's former house, 2 Eldon Place, Manningham Lane, Bradford

Jacob Unna’s former house, 2 Eldon Place, Manningham Lane, Bradford

Jacob Unna, who was Behren’s right-hand man and a founder of Bradford’s Chamber of Commerce, lived at 2 Eldon Place, off Manningham Lane. The house still survives and is a Georgian-style, stone terraced town house. Eldon Place is west off Manningham Lane after the junction with Drewton Road and is within walking distance of the centre of Bradford.

Many events of Unna’s were naturally played out in the house, including the marriage of Jacob’s daughter, Violetta Anna Unna, who married Leopold Lewis on March 24th 1858 at the Registry Office in Bradford. This was followed by a religious ceremony at the Unna home at Eldon Place where Rabbi Dr. Schiller, the minister of the Reform Community in Manchester officiated. Unna’s two other children were both married at the Registry Office.

When Jacob Unna celebrated his eightieth birthday, at Eldon Place, his grandson wrote a letter to his father (i.e. Jacob’s son) telling him about the party. This letter gives us a unique window into life in this house and Victorian Jewish Bradford.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            14 February 1880
My Dear Papa,

I am sure that we were all very sorry that you were not here on Grandpapas birthday and since you were not here I will give you an account of all that happened on that day: we had breakfast at eight o’clock and then we went down to Eldon Place; when we got there we found that the Lewis’s had got there before us; we had to wait about a quarter of an hour, and then Grandpapa came down; just as he opened his bedroom door we began to sing a song called ………… , when he got downstairs (which of course took sometime), we all wished him many happy returns of the day; then he sat down in his chair, and we showed him all the letters and telegrams that had been sent; then he went round to see his presents, among which were; a big ………., from Auntie Ette, a foot warmer for his bathchair, and from Alice a picture of herself as she was at the fancy dress ball; from Auntie Emily a cake with eighty candles round it, and a big one in the middle; from Auntie Fanny a beautiful rug, the inside of which is like Mama’s new cloak; from Auntie Annie a lot of notepaper and envelopes; from Uncle Leopold a new office chair; from Auntie¬ Yetta his armchair newly covered and from Fraulein Jeinsen a new domino box, outside covered with fern leaves, and inside with leather, and from Nellie and I the words of the song written on an ornamental piece of cardboard; after he had seen all his presents we went into breakfast; while we were yet at breakfast Mr. Hamburg came in and he was the first visitor who came to wish Grandpapa many happy returns of today; soon after breakfast the visitors began to come; after breakfast Uncle Joe gave him his present which was a hamper of port from 1798, among the visitors were Mr. and Mrs Lartzarous who had come from Manchester on purpose; visitors kept coming, all the morning till about half past one and at this time the gentlemen from the Lodge came; they came and wished him many happy returns of the day and then Mr. Crabtree first made a speech and after the speech gave him an illuminated address and after that the silver salver; then Mr. Wilsman made a speech and after him Doctor Strauss, after they had gone we went into dinner at which we were all present, after dinner the ladies and gentlemen came as before; I forgot to say that three gentlemen Mr Nathan, Mr. Thaliske and Mr. Voigt came before dinner to wish Grandpapa many happy returns in the name of Schiller Wirein.

Visitors came just after dinner and then at about four o’clock Mama and Nellie went home with Emily and Harry who had come down at about twelve, to dress for the party in the evening: in the evening there were all Grandpapa’s old gentlemen friends, all the relations and besides those Mr. Wood and Mr. Cohn; when the first half of the people were in at supper Grandpapa of course among them, a choir from Doctor Jufts choir came and sang two songs and as soon as they had sung they went away without anybody knowing who they were; we three children also sang the chorus of the song that we sung in the morning, when they proposed Grandpapa’s health: we went home at about half past nine, and Mama came home at about eleven; we had holiday all the day, although we expected that we should have had to go to school all the day; during the day forty five visitors came and Grandpapa got about thirty five letters.

Copy of the letter written after the occasion of Jacob Unna's 80th birthday & his daughter Violetta's marriage certificate.

Copy of the letter written after the occasion of Jacob Unna’s 80th birthday & his daughter Violetta’s marriage certificate.

Just less than a year after these happy scenes at his eightieth birthday, Unna died. The esteem in which he was held was evident in his obituary, in the ‘Bradford Observer’, Saturday, 8 January 1881 which stated:
‘…….. in 1844, two years before any railway was opened to Bradford. Messrs. S.L. Behrens and Co. finally removed their Leeds business to Bradford, since which period up to the year 1870 Mr. Unna represented them here as head of the concern.

It was largely due to the energy, the keen insight into foreign requirements, and the general business capacity of German gentlemen like Mr. Unna that Bradford owed that development of the worsted trade which resulted in its assuming such a position of importance in the commercial history of the world….

…. In private life he was the embodiment of undemonstrative goodness. It is not for us to tell of the good deeds he has done in an unobtrusive manner. Few men of his means have probably given away so much in this way, and with so much discretion.

…. He was a member of the Council of the Chamber of Commerce, and attended its meeting until the removal to the present rooms in the Exchange. He was also one of the promoters of the Bradford District Bank. In the establishment and support of the Bradford Eye and Ear Hospital he took great interest. It was as a Freemason, however that Mr. Unna found scope for his energy and benevolence. He was the founder of the Harmony Lodge in Bradford and was at one time Grand Master.

…. Mr. Unna was a widower having lost his wife about three years ago. He leaves a son, Mr. Charles Unna and two daughters both of whom are married. The interment, we understand, will take place on Wednesday next in the Jewish ground at Scholemoor Cemetery, the last rites being attended with Masonic honours.’

Copy of a potted biography on Jacob Unna, from 'Follow Bradford's Jewish Heritage Trail', by Nigel Grizzard, 1991

Copy of a potted biography on Jacob Unna, from ‘Follow Bradford’s Jewish Heritage Trail’, by Nigel Grizzard, 1991, pages 15 & 16

More on Jacob Unna:


http://bradfordjewish.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Follow-Bradfords-Jewish-Heritage-Trail.pdf Page 16