Wednesday 28 December 2022

(532) Behrens of Swinton Grange

Behrens of Swinton Grange
Solomon Levi Behrens (c.1787-1873), with whom the genealogy below begins, was a German Jewish immigrant who made a fortune as a cotton merchant in Manchester, selling locally-manufactured goods to the Continent, principally through the family importing business in Hamburg which was managed by his father and later by his sister. At the time he arrived in Manchester in 1814 there was a fairly small Jewish community in the city, but this grew rapidly in the 19th century with successive waves of Jewish emigration from Europe. Solomon was probably the wealthiest Jewish merchant in the city (leaving a personal estate of £700,000 at his death in 1873) and he played a leading part in efforts to support his co-religionists through philanthropy and the removal of barriers to Jewish participation in public life. He married in London in June 1815 to Anne Lucas, who was brought up in Jamaica and whose brother Phillip was one of the first Jews to settle in Manchester. Solomon and Anne went on to have at least twelve children over the next 25 years, including eight sons who mostly went into mercantile activities in Manchester or London, including banking, shipping and cotton broking. The fortunes of the next generation were very mixed and while the two youngest sons were entrepreneurs in the mould of their father and each left estates worth over half a million pounds, some of their brothers were much less fortunate. The black sheep of the family was Sampson Lucas Behrens (1816-76), the eldest legitimate son, who defaulted on his debts while living at Cheltenham (Glos) in the 1850s, and spent the rest of his life in Boulogne and Bruges avoiding his creditors. 

The Oaks, Fallowfield, Manchester
Solomon lived in Manchester throughout his life, and most of his sons stayed in the city or close by. Frank Behrens (1839-1902) acquired The Grange at Worleston near Nantwich (Ches.) in his later years, but failed to found a dynasty as he died unmarried. His elder brother, Edward Behrens (1837-1905) bought a large villa at Fallowfield on the then outskirts of the city at the time of his marriage in 1860, and lived there until his death, although he did also rent country houses in Cumbria and north Wales as holiday homes. Edward, like his father, was a prominent philanthropist, and was one of the leading supporters of Owens College, Manchester, which was the principal precursor of Manchester University. His wife Abigail was active in promoting higher education for women, and after Edward's death his eldest son Walter Lionel Behrens (1861-1913) presented The Oaks to Owens College as a centre for the continuing education of women. This gift required those of the family who were still unmarried and living at The Oaks to relocate, and Walter purchased a house nearby which he symbolically called The Acorns.
The Acorns, Fallowfield, Manchester: long gallery, 1909.
Percy S. Worthington, the leading Manchester architect, was employed to remodel the interior in 1909, creating a series of grand interiors in place of smaller pre-existing rooms, and forming a long gallery for the display of Walter's important collection of Japanese antiquities and works of art.

Despite the rather sumptuous interiors created by Worthington, The Acorns remained a suburban villa rather than a country house, but Clive Behrens (1871-1935), the fifth son of Edward Behrens of The Oaks, was to carry the family across the line into the landed gentry when he married the Hon. Charlotte Louisa Adela Evelina Rothschild (1873-1947), only daughter of the 1st Baron Rothschild, in 1899. Lord Rothschild provided the funds for Clive Behrens to buy a gentleman farmer's house at Swinton near Malton in the North Riding of Yorkshire, and presumably also the funds with which to rebuild it on a considerably larger scale to the designs of F.A. Tugwell of Scarborough (Yorks NR), an architect working in the Arts and Crafts tradition. The rebuilding took place after Clive Behrens retired from the army in 1903, and was complete by 1906. Although he returned to active service during the First World War, Clive essentially then settled down to the life of a country gentleman farmer, breeding cattle, pigs and poultry, and later also racehorses. His elder son, John Nathaniel Behrens (1903-35), was in the diplomatic service but died of blood poisoning a few months before his father, while working at the British embassy in China. The heir to the estate was therefore Clive's younger son, William Edward Boaz Behrens (1908-89), a barrister in London. Although he did not retire from the bar until 1954, he served during the Second World War with the Royal Armoured Corps and experienced a meteoric rise through the ranks from 2nd Lt. in 1940 to Lt-Colonel in 1944! After the war he returned to Swinton and resumed his father's racehorse and stock breeding activities. The mansion at Swinton seemed too large for post-war conditions, however, and in 1953 he dismantled about half of it and sold the precious building materials for re-use by local contractors. Unfortunately he demolished the more attractive half of the house, probably because it contained the grander rooms which then seemed redundant. In 1978 he sold the remaining part of the house for conversion to offices and moved to a smaller house on the estate, bring to an end the family's relatively brief period as country house owners. Happily, after less than half a century of use as offices and a subsequent period of neglect, Swinton Grange has been restored and is once more a private house.

Swinton Grange, Swinton, Malton, Yorks (NR)

Swinton Grange: block plan of the original
farmhouse in 1854 from 1st edn. 6" plan. 
The house stands on the site of a gentleman farmer's house that belonged in the 19th century to the Stricklands and later to the Garforth family; this had an entrance hall, dining, drawing and morning rooms and six bedrooms when it was advertised for sale in 1902. The present house was built in c.1904-06 at the expense of the 1st Lord Rothschild as a wedding present to his daughter Evelina and her husband Clive Behrens. The architect was Frank Alfred Tugwell (1861-1940) of Scarborough, who had an extensive practice, loosely in the Arts & Crafts tradition, in Yorkshire. 

Swinton Grange: engraving of the new house from The Studio, 1904.

Swinton Grange: view along the terrace of the house before partial demolition in 1953. Image: Victoria County History/Historic England 
Illustrations published at the time of its construction show that, as first built, the house was nearly twice its present size, with only the left-hand half of the intended design surviving today. This is a pity, as the demolished portion, with its two oriel windows, was more characterful than the rest. The house was reduced in size in the early 1950s, and the salvaged building materials, including bricks, tiles, timber, casement windows and panelling, were auctioned in October 1953. 

Swinton Grange: the garden front of the reduced house after restoration to a private residence, 2022.
Regrettably, there does not seem to be a surviving plan corresponding to the original design, so the intended arrangement of rooms is unclear, but the hall and drawing-room were panelled in walnut and oak, and the dining room in white painted deal. The surviving part of the house consists of a main block with projecting bay windows at either end of the garden front, overlooking a terrace, with a recessed service wing to its left. The entrance side has a colonnaded entrance between two projecting wings. 

Swinton Grange: the entrance front of the reduced house in 2022.
The walls are of white-painted roughcast with generous stone dressings; the roof of purplish-red tiles with tall brick chimneystacks. In 1978, the house had four reception rooms and eleven bedrooms. The exterior seems little changed since its reduction, but the interior, having been used as offices and then reconverted to a private home, has been modernised, with a resulting loss of detail and character. The gardens were created by Lord Rothschild's gardeners, and were said to contain examples of every known English native species of tree at the time of planting; they are still generously timbered.

Descent: sold 1902 to Clive Behrens (1871-1935); to son, William Edward Boaz Behrens (1908-89); sold 1978 to Spectra-Tek Ltd. (later Swinton Technology) for use as offices; sold c.2009 and reconverted to a private house; for sale in 2022.

Behrens family of Swinton Grange

Behrens, Solomon Levi (c.1787-1873). Son of Levy Behrens (1743-1834), textile merchant, and his wife Hannah Baschwitz (1750-1828), born at Pyrmont, Waldeck (Germany) in 1787 or 1788. Until 1806, his father was a partner with his two brothers in a firm importing English cotton goods into Germany, but he then moved to Hamburg and established a similar business in which Solomon and his brother Wilhelm were apprenticed, and which was later managed by their sister Lorette. The family had social and commercial links with Nathan Meyer Rothschild (1777-1836), and in 1814 Solomon followed Rothschild's example in moving to Manchester, where he founded one of the most successful cotton exporting firms of his day, selling Manchester textiles through his sister's business in Hamburg. An Orthodox Jew in religion, he succeeded Rothschild in the role of financial patron of the Jewish community in Manchester and was active in the fight for Jewish emancipation. He was also a contributor to the founding of Owens College (later the University of Manchester). He married, 19 June 1815 in London, Anne (1795-1851), daughter of Sampson Lucas (1766-1813) of London and Kingston (Jamaica), and had issue:
(1) Sampson Lucas Behrens (1816-76), born  4 April 1816; merchant; married 1st, 25 January 1843, Justina Rachel (1822-54), daughter of Benjamin Cohen (1789-1867) of Asgill House, Richmond (Surrey), and had issue three sons and two daughters; married 2nd, 1854, Barbara Louise (1820-1906), daughter of William Wake (1779-1867), and had further issue four sons and one daughter; in 1856 he lived at Cheltenham and defaulted on his debts, fleeing to Boulogne (France); died at Bruges (Belgium), 19 December 1876; administration granted 12 May 1906 (effects £2,026)
(2) Frederica Behrens (1818-99), born 28 October 1818; married, 1838, Henry Micholls and had issue two sons and three daughters; died 24 December and was buried at Hoop Lane Jewish Cemetery, Golders Green (Middx), 27 December 1899; will proved 30 January 1900 (estate £16,241);
(3) Georgina Behrens (1823-71), born 23 April 1823; died unmarried, 20 May 1871; will proved 21 June 1871 (estate under £8,000);
(4) Horatio Behrens (1824-80), born 19 October 1824; merchant in Manchester; seriously injured by a fall from a runaway horse, 1854; died unmarried, 12 November 1880; will proved 11 December 1880 (effects under £200,000);
(5) Charles Behrens (c.1825-49), born about 1825; died unmarried, Oct-Dec 1849;
(6) Emma Behrens (c.1826-56), born about 1826; died unmarried; will proved 9 October 1856;
(7) Julius Behrens (1827-88), born 15 June 1827; merchant in Manchester; died unmarried, 21 October 1888; will proved 31 December 1888 (estate £420,317);
(8) Hannah Behrens (1829-1904), born 16 October 1829; died unmarried and was buried at the Old Hebrew Congregation Burial Ground, Prestwich, 10 January 1904;
(9) Adolph Behrens (1833-96), born 24 June 1833; banker; a classical music enthusiast; lived for the last eighteen years of his life in a suite at the Star & Garter Hotel, Richmond (Surrey); died unmarried, 16 March and was buried at the Old Hebrew Congregation Burial Ground, Prestwich, 20 March 1896; will proved 27 May 1896 (effects £86,870, of which he left the German composer Johannes Brahms £1,000 despite never having met or corresponded with him);
(10) Lionel Behrens (1835-54); died unmarried, Oct-Dec 1854;
(11) Edward Behrens (1837-1905) (q.v.);
(12) Francis alias Frank Behrens (1839-1902); merchant in Manchester; lived latterly at Worleston Grange, Nantwich (Ches.), and died there, 4 March 1902; will proved 12 April 1902 (estate £532,320). 
He lived at Stanley Grove, Manchester.
He died 30 June 1873; his will was proved 11 July 1873 (estate under £700,000). His wife died 13 June 1851.

Edward Behrens (1837-1905) 
Behrens, Edward (1837-1905).
Seventh son of Solomon Levi Behrens (c.1787-1873), and his wife Anne, 
daughter of Sampson Lucas of London and Kingston (Jamaica), born at Chorlton-on-Medlock (Lancs), 10 April 1837. East India and general shipping merchant; managing director of S.L. Behrens & Co. of Oxford St., Manchester, which also had subsidiary businesses in Leeds and Bradford. He was a member of the Court of Governors of Owens College (later the University of Manchester) for thirty-four years. He was also a generous benefactor to the Jewish community in Manchester and was for some years Chairman of the Manchester Jewish School. He married, 18 April 1860, Abigail (1842-1900), second daughter of Philip Lucas of Temple House, Manchester and Dunoon (Ayrs.), and had issue:
(1) Walter Lionel Behrens (1861-1913), born 15 July 1861; shipping merchant with S.L. Behrens & Co. of Manchester; a major collector of Japanese works of art, especially netsuke; lived at The Oaks and later at The Acorns, Fallowfield, Manchester, which he purchased after the gift of The Oaks to Manchester University and remodelled to the designs of Percy S. Worthington; a Conservative in politics but he was not active in public affairs; died unmarried at Chorlton-on-Medlock after an operation for appendicitis, 15 February, and was cremated at Manchester Crematorium, 17 February 1913; will proved 1 July 1913 (estate £122,401);
(2) Annie Juliana Behrens (1862-1945), born 31 August 1862; died unmarried, 23 July 1945; will proved 8 January 1946 (estate £14,448);
(3) Oliver Philip Behrens (1863-1953), born 21 August 1863; educated at Rugby, 1877-79, Owens College, Manchester, and Oriel College, Oxford (matriculated 1882; BA 1885); merchant in Manchester (retired about 1930); lived at Worleston Grange, Nantwich (Ches.) and in retirement at 22 Calverley Park, Tunbridge Wells (Kent); a collector of sporting prints and drawings; married 1st, 21 July 1901, Cecilia Esther (1865-1948), daughter of Simon Waley Waley (1827-75), and had issue a stillborn son; married 2nd, 11 January 1949 at Caxton Hall Registry Office, Westminster (Middx), Agnes Octavia (1907-98) (who m2, 27 May 1957 at York Minster (div. 1974), George Spink Waldo (1927-89), philologist), youngest daughter of John Tatham Ware of York, but had no issue; died 15 March and was buried at Hoop Lane Cemetery, Golders Green (Middx), 17 March 1953; administration granted to the official solicitor of the Supreme Court (effects £Nil);
(4) George Benjamin Behrens (1864-1931), born 4 December 1864; educated at Wellington and Corpus Christi College, Oxford (matriculated 1883; BA 1885); textile manufacturer with Daniel Lee & Co. of Manchester; an officer in the Volunteer Battn of the Manchester Regiment (2nd Lt., 1900); lived at 6 St Peter's Sq., Manchester and later at Vron-yw, Denbigh (Denbighs.); High Sheriff of Denbighshire, 1917-18; married, 7 August 1890 at Llansawel (Carmarthens), Helen Elizabeth (1866-1956), daughter of John Morgan Davies of Froodvale (Carmarthens) and had issue two sons and two daughters; buried at Llangwyfan (Denbighs), 9 March 1931; will proved 16 April 1931 (estate £8,240);
(5) Helen Alice Behrens (1866-1904), born 24 May 1866; died unmarried, 10 September 1904; administration of goods granted 5 November 1904 (estate £17,202);
(6) Kate Behrens (1867-1916), born 30 June 1867; married, 11 May 1907, Henry Oliver Hope (1880-1949) (who m2, Eva Beaujolois (1882-1951), daughter of Edward Guy Selby‑Smith (1851-1904)of Banwell Castle (Som.), farmer, son of Henry John Hope, but had no issue; died 17 April 1916; will proved 3 June 1916 (estate £11,602);
(7) Richard Gompertz Behrens (1869-1945?), of London, born 21 July 1869; a collector of English pictures who dispersed his collection at auction in 1909; married, 30 December 1913, Margaret Elizabeth (1885-1968), daughter of Sir James Inglis Davidson, kt., of Saughton Mains, Edinburgh (Midlothian), and had issue one daughter; said to have died in 1945, perhaps at Mentone (France);
(8) Clive Behrens (1871-1935) (q.v.);
(9) Harold Lucas Behrens (1874-1952), of Oakhurst, Mobberley (Ches.), born 29 March 1874; educated at Rugby, 1888-92; engineer and inventor; a member of the Court of Governors of Owens College and, from 1934, of the University of Manchester, and also of the Council of the University; married, 8 November 1898 at West London Synagogue, Ethel Rose (1876-1934), daughter of David Lionel Beddington (1848-1915), of London, and had issue three sons and one daughter; died 30 January 1952 and was buried in Southern Cemetery, Chorlton-cum-Hardy (Lancs); will proved 23 July 1952 (estate £351);
(10) Noel Edward Behrens (1878-1967), of Bailey Hill, Denham (Bucks), born 16 March 1878; educated at Rugby, 1892-97 (head of school) and Corpus Christi College, Oxford (BA 1908); joined civil service and was a Commissioner of Customs & Excise, 1914-21; later had a career in banking; married, 22 July 1903 at St Mary Abbots, Kensington (Middx), Catherine Vivien (1880-1961), fourth daughter of Sir Cecil Allen Coward (1845-1938), kt., lawyer, and had issue one son and one daughter; died 8 January 1967; will proved 9 March 1967 (estate £145,457).
He bought The Oaks, Fallowfield, Manchester (which he bequeathed to Owens College - now the University of Manchester - for the continuing education of women) in 1860 and leased several country houses at different times including Corby Castle (Cumbld) and Bettisfield Park (Flints).
He died 1 April and was buried in the Jewish Burial Ground, Prestwich (Lancs), 4 April 1905; his will was proved 15 May 1905 (estate £551,311). His wife died 11 February 1900; administration of her goods was granted 23 May 1900 (estate £61,020).

Maj. Clive Behrens (1871-1935) 
Behrens, Maj. Clive (1871-1935).
Fifth son of Edward Behrens (1837-1905) and his wife Abigail, born 14 November 1871. Educated at Rugby, 1885-88, and Royal Military Academy, Woolwich (admitted 1889). An officer in the Royal Artillery (2nd Lt., 1891; Lt., 1894; Capt., 1899; retired 1903; returned to the colours 1914; T/Maj., 1917; retired as Hon. Maj., 1919); served as adjutant to Yorkshire Artillery, 1899-1903 and to North Riding Volunteer Regt., 1917-19; appointed OBE, 1919. After leaving the army he became a farmer and breeder of cattle, pigs and poultry, and in 1927 he started a racehorse stud at Swinton Grange (which was continued after an interval by his son William). JP and DL (from 1927) for North Riding of Yorkshire; High Sheriff of Yorkshire, 1930-31; Chairman of Malton Cottage Hospital. He married, 4 October 1899, Hon. Charlotte Louisa Adela Evelina Rothschild JP (1873-1947), only daughter of the Rt. Hon. Sir Nathan Meyer Rothschild (1840-1915), 2nd bt. and 1st Baron Rothschild, and had issue:
(1) Peggy Abigail Behrens (1900-47), born 21 December 1900; married, 9 July 1924 at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster (Middx), Peter Edward Clement Harris (1898-1976) (who m2, Jan-Mar 1950 (div. 1958), Hope Jessie (1910-81), gown saleswoman, daughter of Sydney Griffin of Staines (Middx) and formerly wife of Geoffrey Garrington Hill (1906-75) and Brian Harry George Halford (1906-89), and 3rd, 6 April 1959, Margaret Rosalind Lindley (1907-2005), daughter of Sir Edward Paulet Stracey (1871-1949), 7th bt.), son of Sir Austin Harris (1870-1958), kt. of Pittleworth Manor (Sussex), banker, and had issue one son; died 25 October 1947; will proved 24 March 1948 (estate £118,215);
(2) John Nathaniel Behrens (1903-35), born 6 September 1903; educated at Rugby and Corpus Christi College, Oxford (BA 1925); joined diplomatic service, 1928 (third secretary in Belgrade (Serbia), 1929-32 and Peking (China), 1932-33; second secretary in Peking 1933-35); died unmarried of blood poisoning, 21 June 1935; administration of goods granted to his mother, 6 January 1936 (estate £77,826);
(3) William Edward Boaz Behrens (1908-89) (q.v.).
He and his wife were given Swinton Grange near Malton (Yorks NR) as a wedding present by his father-in-law, and presumably also the funds with which to rebuild it.
He died suddenly, 28 August 1935; his will was proved 6 January 1936 (estate £68, 389). His widow died 9 May 1947; her will was proved 10 February 1948 (estate £99,581).

Behrens, Col. William Edward Boaz (k/a Billy) (1908-89). Younger son of Clive Behrens (1871-1935) and his wife Hon. Charlotte Louisa Adela Evelina Rothschild JP, only daughter of the Rt. Hon. Sir Nathaniel Rothschild, 1st Baron Rothschild, born 14 October 1908. Educated at Rugby, 1921-26, Christ Church, Oxford (matriculated 1926; BA 1930 with 1st class honours) and the Inner Temple (admitted 1928; called 1931). Barrister-at-law (retired 1954). An officer in the Royal Armoured Corps during the Second World War, where he had a meteoric rise through the ranks (2nd Lt., 1940; Lt. 1941; Capt. 1942; Maj., 1944; Lt-Col., 1944; retired as Hon Col., 1946). After the Second World War he bred pigs and pedigree shorthorn cattle and ran a small private racehorse stud from 1947-89, winning the St. Leger in 1973 with Peleid. JP for North Riding of Yorkshire from 1957. He married 1st, 30 March 1931 at the Central Synagogue, Great Portland St., London (div. 1945), Barbara Annette (1910-87), daughter of Sir Arthur Abrahams, and 2nd, 6 June 1946, Dulcie Bella (1913-2014), daughter of Owen Mocatta of London, and had issue:
(1.1) Gerald Michael Behrens (1934-2018), born 16 August 1934; educated at Eton and Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester; married, 17 May 1957, Mirielle Donaldine (b. 1936), daughter of Dr Donald McCormick of Malton (Yorks NR) and had issue two sons and two daughters; died 2 April 2018; will proved 17 December 2018;
(2.1) Sarah-Jane Peggy Behrens (b. 1947), born 18 August 1947; married, Apr-Jun 1982, John Gerald Voelcker (1938-2021), son of Eric Voelcker FRSC, and had issue two sons;
(2.2) Clive Owen John Behrens (b. 1948), of Birstwith House (Yorks WR), born 14 September 1948; educated at Eton, Trinity College, Cambridge (BA 1969) and Grays Inn (called 1972); barrister-at-law, in private practice until 1996; recorder, 1992-96; circuit judge, 1996-2016; married, 1974, Clemency Anne Susan MA (b. 1949), daughter of Cdr. Terence Butler RN and had issue one son and one daughter;
(2.3) Anthony William Behrens (1950-2021), born 25 August 1950; educated at Stowe; a member of the London Stock Exchange, 1978; Fellow of the Securities Institute; a member of the Worshipful Company of Coopers in the City of London; married, 1974, Lindsey Margaret SRN, daughter of (Peter) Roy Spendlove CVO and had issue two sons and one daughter; died 8 May 2021; will proved 5 November 2021;
(2.4) James Nicholas Edward Behrens (b. 1956), born 22 December 1956; educated at Eton, Trinity College, Cambridge (MA 1982), Middle Temple (called 1979) and University of Wales (LLM 1996; PhD 2002); barrister-at-law and chartered arbitrator; Chancellor of the Dioceses of Leicester, 2002-11 and Bristol, 2004-11; a member of the Bar Council, 1992-94; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators; married, 6 September 1986 at Sonning (Berks), Sally Templeton, daughter of Michael Templeton Brett of Harpsden Hill House (Oxon), and had issue one son and two daughters.
He inherited Swinton Grange from his father in 1935 but sold it in 1978 and lived latterly at Homegarth, Swinton.
He died 15 June 1989; his will was proved 31 July 1989 (estate £1,232,878). His first wife married 2nd, Oct-Dec 1946, as his second wife, John Bellenden Alford (1905-47), who committed suicide, and 3rd, Jul-Sept 1949, John Anthony Cooke (1910-2002), but had no further issue; she died 8 February 1987 and her will was proved 10 July 1987 (estate £748,740). His widow died aged 101 on 25 November 2014; her will was proved 17 July 2015.

Principal sources

Burke's Landed Gentry, 1972, pp. 55-56; Burke's Landed Gentry: vol 2 - The Ridings of York, 2005, pp. 47-48; The Studio, vol. 33, 1904-05, pp. 246-47; M.E. Macartney, Recent English Domestic Architecture, 1909, pp. 196-200;

Location of archives

Behrens of Swinton Grange: estate deeds, 1816-1919 [The Rothschild Archive, 000/62]

Coat of arms

Per fesse argent and vert, in chief a bull's head erased between two horses' heads also erased, and in base a cannon on its carriage pointing to the sinister, all proper.

Can you help?

  • Can anyone provide portraits of the people whose names appear in bold above, for whom no image is currently shown?
  • If anyone can offer further information or corrections to any part of this article I should be most grateful. I am always particularly pleased to hear from current owners or the descendants of families associated with a property who can supply information from their own research or personal knowledge for inclusion.

Revision and acknowledgements

This post was first published 28 December 2022 and updated 12 November 2023. I am grateful to Hans Houterman for elucidating the military career of Col. W.E.B. Behrens, to Faye McLeod for assistance with his academic career, and to Ron Leaf for corrections and additional information.

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