The W. Riley Archive

Scope and Content

Contains manuscripts, lecture notes, press cuttings, correspondence, programmes, reports and photographs. Arranged as: RIL1 Writing for publication, RIL2 Lectures, RIL3 Notes, RIL4 Related to publication, RIL5 Press cuttings, RIL6 Responses to his work, RIL7 Correspondence, RIL8 Personal documents, RIL9 W. Riley as a Local Preacher, RIL10 W. Riley's Bradford connection, RIL11 W. Riley's life in Silverdale, RIL12 Photographs, RIL13 Realia.

Administrative / Biographical History

Willie Riley was born in Bradford in 1866 and worked in his family's stuff business. The family branched out into magic lantern slides and apparatus, and Willie became Managing Director of the Riley Brothers Optical Lantern Company, a mail order supply company with a branch in the U.S.A. He turned to writing later in life, producing 'Windyridge' in 1911 to amuse bereaved friends. At their urging, he submitted the book to Herbert Jenkins, who published it; this heartwarming tale, full of the detail of Yorkshire life, became a best-seller. Riley became a full-time writer after the optical business collapsed, producing over 30 novels mostly set in the Yorkshire Dales. He also wrote short stories, newspaper articles, travel works, and many lectures. Riley's Methodism and love of the Dales underlie all his writings. Riley moved to Silverdale in Lancashire in 1919, where he lived first with wife Clara, whose delicate health had precipitated the move, then his second wife Edith. He died in 1961.


The archive has been artificially arranged on archival principles.

Access Information

Available to researchers, by appointment. Access to archive material is subject to preservation requirements and must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act and any other appropriate legislation.

Acquisition Information

Donated by John Riley, 2005 to 2011.

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished handlist.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Some material has suffered serious deterioration due to damp, and is therefore closed until appropriate remedial work is carried out.

Archivist's Note

Described by John Brooker.

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be supplied or produced at the discretion of Special Collections staff, subject to copyright law and the condition of the originals.

Appraisal Information

Some irrelevant or ephemeral material has been weeded.

Custodial History

Bequeathed by Willie Riley to his nephew John Riley.


Further accruals are expected.

Related Material

The Joseph Riley Archive, Special Collections, University of Bradford (GB 0532 RIJ) contains memoirs and an account of travel by Joseph Riley, WR's father. It is believed that the original manuscript notebooks of 'Windyridge' are held at Leeds Central Library. The typescript of 'Windyridge' prepared by WR from his manuscript is held by West Yorkshire Archive Service (reference Bradford GB202/47D77).


Used by David M. Copeland for his M.Phil. thesis, 'From Bradford Moor to Silver Dale' (University of Bradford, 2008), and for his introduction to the new edition of 'Windyridge' (Northern Heritage Publications, 2010). Mr Copeland maintains a website on Riley and his works, at (as at August 2011).