THE QUEENS HOTEL, LEEDS
The hotel is a fine example of elegant art deco design, reminiscent of its 1937 construction. What many people don’t know is that this is the second Queens Hotel to stand in this footprint. The first was built during the railway’s golden age, but the city soon outgrew it.
In the original hotel, Karen Fleet had been a long serving housekeeper. She was a hard working woman, taking pride in her job and everything she did. Karen had lost her husband shortly after the birth of her only son, so she needed to work to keep the small family afloat. During the outbreak of the Great War, Karen’s son signed up for the British Army. In 1916, he was tragically killed during the Battle of the Somme.
Heartbroken, Karen pleaded for the Queens Hotel General Manager, John Garden, to help her persuade the War Office to return her beloved son’s body to Leeds. After much discussion the War Office finally agreed. Grief stricken, Karen felt she could no longer work to her high standards, so resigned from her job and focused on her son’s burial arrangements.
Karen visited John Garden every day at 11am to see what news had come from the War Office – when would she be able to lay her son to rest? Unfortunately, Karen’s son’s body was returned on an ill-fated frigate that was attacked and sunk in the English Channel - all hands perished. WWI propaganda was sparing with the truth, so not all losses were recorded. As such, no news ever made it to the Queens Hotel about the frigate or Karen’s son’s remains.
For the following three weeks, Karen returned to the Queens at precisely 11am for news of her son. Then, overcome with grief and self-inflicted malnutrition, she collapsed in John Garden’s waiting room. When the doctor arrived, she was pronounced dead.
Karen Fleet never found out what had happened to her son’s body and that’s why she still visits the Queens every day at 11am. As mentioned at the start of this story, a new Queens Hotel now stands where the one that Karen worked in once stood. What was once John Garden’s office now resides the hotel’s boiler room. In 1989, the hotel manager and assistant manager witnessed a white figure pass through the doors of the boiler room, followed by a sudden burst of arctic chill. Both put their accounts on record.
Through the years, hotel engineers have also encountered unexplainable happenings - valves and dials moving on their own. Locked doors and cupboards becoming unlocked when no one else had a key. Temperatures being changed in certain areas of the hotel. But most disturbing, the gentle sound of a woman sobbing in the darkest corner of the boiler room.