W. Riley Archive and Book Collection

Archive reference: RIL

The Archive of a phenomenally popular Yorkshire author whose heart-warming tales of country and town life are beginning to be rediscovered.

The Call of the Heather: Windyridge by W. Riley.  No. 14 in our 100 Objects exhibition.

Willie Riley

Willie Riley was born in Bradford in 1866 and worked in his family's stuff business, eventually becoming Managing Director of the Riley Brothers Optical Lantern Company. 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.

Despite his fame at the time, Riley is now almost forgotten. Bradford graduate David Copeland has done a great deal of work to bring together Riley enthusiasts, and has succeeded in having Windyridge reprinted. Find out more about Riley from Mr Copeland's Willie Riley website, which includes a biography, detailed bibliography, photographs, and obituaries, or his thesis about Riley, From Bradford Moor to Silver Dale.

Willie's father Joseph also led a fascinating life, see our page about his Archive to find out more.

The Archive

The Archive includes manuscripts, correspondence, press cuttings, notebooks, and many photographs and albums.

The Books

Special Collections has a large collection of books and pamphlets by Riley, many donated by Dr W.R. "Bill" Mitchell.