My great grandmother, Lily Slade/Galbraith/Clarke.
My great grandmother, Lily Slade/Galbraith/Clarke.

I recently posted about how finding a photo from about 30 years ago triggered a search of Google Street View trying to locate a hotel I stayed at a couple of times on school trips to the Isle of Wight. Well, after having success with that, I remembered another little mystery I had from my family tree.

This one is a little different to my mystery photo album; that's an old family album which was passed to me with no real idea who anyone pictured is. This mystery stems from a visit I made to London about 15 years ago on a city break and made a detour to find a couple of locations I knew my ancestors lived at.

In particular I was looking for where my great grandparents David and Lily separately lived in Kensington around the time of their marriage in 1937. 

I'm writing this post as part of my occasional series of #52Ancestors posts, taking a different theme to write about your family history. I'm classing this under the 'out of place' prompt from back in January as, as far as I'm concerned, the building I was looking for was definitely out of place - it wasn't there!

David's residence in Redcliffe Road I found really quickly. For some reason, though, I wasn't expecting not to find Lily's.

I mean, it was just pre-war and obviously a lot had changed in London between 1937 and my visit in 2008, but I was pretty disappointed as I headed down Queen's Gate, away from the Royal Albert Hall, to find this:

The corner of Queen's Gate and Harrington Road in Kensington - with an unoccupied stretch of land surrounded by a blue hoarding.

This is the location of 121 Queen's Gate, the address given as Lily's residence on her marriage certificate. My first assumption was it had been bombed in the blitz and not redeveloped. The Layers of London website does show there were bombings that destroyed and seriously damaged buildings just metres away, but 121 Queen's Gate was, seemingly, untouched.

A map of London from 1945 showing World War 2 bomb damage.
Image: Layers of London

I did spot, though, that the building I think I'm looking for is marked on that map as a hotel. The marriage certificate doesn't mention a hotel, nor does it show her with an occupation, so where does that fit in?

Searching the internet for now-closed hotels is difficult. I found that with my Isle of Wight post, and I've found it with this one as you're bombarded with hotel adverts and reviews. However, by pure chance, I stumbled across this photo from the London Picture Archive:

Hotel Imperial and Kensington Hotel in Queen's Gate, image © London Metropolitan Archives (City of London).

This is the Hotel Imperial and the Kensington Hotel at 121-122 and 120-117A Queen's Gate. This confirms that, in 1964 at least, number 121 was part of the hotel.

Going back further and a search on Ancestry shows Hotel Imperial in the 1938 Post Office Directory:

A screenshot of the 1938 Post Office directory. It reads: Hotel Imperial, 121 & 122 Queen's gate, SW7

So, that means that Lily must have been staying at the Hotel Imperial in some way. Was she a temporary guest? Was she a long-term resident? Was she an employee?

The electoral roll for 1936 shows both Lily and David registered at 121/122 Queen's Gate. With David's occupation on the marriage certificate given as 'Hall porter' that would say to me that they were working at the hotel.

A screen shot from the 1936 electoral roll showing Lily and David at 121/122 Queen's Gate.

I also have an electoral roll record dated 15 October 1937, just two weeks after getting married, with David and Lily apparently living at the Institut français, Queensbury Way. That's just around the corner. In fact, you can see it on the 1945 map above, it's in the area of bomb-damaged buildings in the circle on the right-hand side.

An extract from the 1937 electoral roll showing David and Lily Galbraith at Institut Francais

Amongst my family history notes is a snippet from an email my "auntie" Carol, Lily's daughter and my grandfather's half sister that she had sent to my mum:

Seem to remember going to London to Baden powell house and Mum saying about living near there.

That would make sense as Baden-Powell House, now Queen's Gate House, is just 200m from the site of 121 Queen's Gate, and a similar distance to Institut français.

A map showing Baden Powell House to the north on the junction of Queen's Gate and Cromwell Road, labelled (1); 121 Queen's Gate on the junction with Harrington Road, labelled (2); and Institut Francais on Harrington Road, labelled (3). There's approximately 200m (220 yards) between Baden Powell House and 121 Queen's Gate, and a similar distance to Institut Francais.
(1) Baden Powell House; (2) site of 121 Queen's Gate; (3) Institut français. Map © OpenStreetMap contributors.


At this point I'm thinking, "why don't I just get in touch with Carol again?" Yeah, that's something I should've done earlier to try and find out whether Lily worked in a hotel...

when Mum left school she worked at Eton college as a chamber maid, then went to London to work in a Hotel as a telephonist, that is where she met David.

Well, that confirms it. Always ask your relatives for what they know, folks! 

Carol also mentions:

I always thought that David was in the Guards and stationed at some barracks round the corner from the Hotel.

There were barracks in Kensington, about a mile away in Kensington Church Street. I also have in my notes that David was a private in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, and that's dated 11th January 1940, but I don't have the sources attached to that. Looks like there's some more fact-checking to do there!

And, after all that, there's another slight bump that's been placed in my road:

A screenshot of the 1954 Kensington electoral register. It shows two people by the names of David and Lily Galbraith.

This is an extract of the 1954 electoral roll for Kensington. That would be all great, fine and dandy... except David died in 1943 and I have her located in the Berkshire electoral registers between 1945 and 1951.

This couple were registered at the Tudor Court Hotel, Cromwell Road, (still a hotel today under a different name) -- next door to Baden Powell house. Look just to the left of the number 1 marker on the map above, it's there.

Coincidence? Old voter registrations in the records? Voter fraud?! Looks like categorising this post as 'out of place' is definitely correct.