Finding myself in Keighley today I decided to add a couple more pubs to my collection and also to go in search of Kate Kellem. Kate Kellem was born in South Wales in 1877 and was brought to Keighley as a young girl by her adopted father who was the landlord of a Keighley hotel. She became a barmaid and eventually fell in love with, and married, a local Mill Mechanic, Albert Beanland. They had two daughters, Amy born in 1904 and Gladys born in 1911. Gladys Beanland was my mother.
It is unclear how Kate came to be adopted and I am not sure which hotel she worked at. I remember my mother telling me it was somewhere in the centre of Keighley and that it was then (some thirty or forty years ago) still standing. The name of the hotel, as far as I could remember, had some kind of royal connotations. Not much information I admit, but enough to launch an entertaining search.
If there is a Royal Hotel I didn't find it. There was a Victoria Hotel but it seemed to be at the wrong side of town. So a process of elimination brought me to the wonderful Albert Hotel. This fit perfectly: not only was it of the right age and with a suitably regal title, the idea of young Kate falling in love with Albert in the bar of the Albert Hotel somehow seemed appropriate.
The hotel itself was a glorious building, the kind of place that should be set in aspic for posterity. Victorian down to its marble fireplace and mahogany bar I had no difficulty in visualising Kate behind the bar. Albert, on his way home from the mill, would call in for a pint and stay close to the bar in order to catch a word with the young girl who still had the lilt of the Welsh Valleys in her voice. He would tell her the story of his life and she would tell him of how she came to be so far away from home. But what was that story? How I long to know.