Robert Holmes, Mayor of Keighley

Robert Holmes, J. P., who served as Mayor of Keighley between 1886 and 1887, died on 21st June 1904, just short of being 77 years old. Holmes was the fifth Mayor of Keighley, and had been born in July 1827.

The mini-biography of Holmes, published in the Keighley News’ Borough Jubilee publication of 10th September 1932 reads: “One of Keighley’s earliest chancellors of the exchequer, Mr Robert Holmes, who was the son of Mr Thomas Holmes, a grocer and yeast merchant, High Street, Keighley, entered public life in 1877, when he was elected to the Local Board of Health. He continued a member of that body and its successor, the Town Council, down to the time of his death, occupying the chairmanship of the Finance Committee for 25 years. He was appointed an alderman at the first meeting of the Town Council but was ousted in 1898 by a Tory-Socialist compact. As chairman of the most important committee Mr Holmes had the reputation of being an economist. He was not opposed to expenditure if it could be shown to be reproductive and not reproductive merely in the material sense. Showy and spacious schemes likely to entail heavy rate charges frequently encountered his opposition. He was a Borough and a West Riding magistrate, and among his many other interests were the Keighley and Craven Building Society and the Keighley Temperance Society. His efforts were chiefly instrumental in enabling the Temperance Society to take over and to hold the old Mechanics’ Institute – a purchase that afterwards proved to be remunerative. His Mayoral year coincided with the Queen’s Jubilee, and, being a widower, the duties of the Mayoress devolved on an unmarried daughter.”

As noted above, Holmes was involved with the Keighley and Craven Building Society, serving as Vice-President in 1882. The building society was established in 1851, and for more than half of the 20th century had its head office on Cooke Street in Keighley, overlooking the Town Hall Square. By the 1930s it had branches in Cowling, Cross Hills, Haworth, Oakworth, Oxenhope, Steeton and as far away as Morecambe. It merged with The Provincial Building Society on 31st August 1966. Engraved stonework can still be seen on the Cooke Street building today.

Portrait of Robert Holmes taken by William Cooke’s Studio on Earl Street, Skipton Road, Keighley. Town Hall Square photograph is a detail from a 1938 Valentine & Sons Ltd. postcard, with the Keighley & Craven Building Society head office on the left. Modern photograph taken by Tim Neal in 2019.

Author: Admin Tim

Tim is a committee member of the Keighley and District Local History Society, with responsibilities for archiving the physical and digital collections, and managing some of the social media channels. He moved to Keighley about ten years ago and joined the Society to learn more about the area.

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