Joseph Riley Archive

Archive reference: RIJ

Joseph Riley

Joseph Riley's writings offer a fascinating link to the business world and religious life of 19th century Bradford. Riley (1838-1926) was a Bradford business man, best known for the magic lantern firm Riley Brothers. His career included the printing trade and various wool firms, as manager and as partner. Riley Brothers was originally a stuff merchant, but the company went bankrupt in 1902, because the bulk of its business was destroyed by conflict in the Near East. The lantern slide business continued until the First World War under Riley's second son, William, who later wrote "Windyridge" and became a popular novelist. W. Riley's Archive is also part of Special Collections.

The story of Riley Brothers is told in the book "By gaslight in winter" compiled by Colin Gordon (Elm Tree, 1980).

The Archive

The archive includes an account of Joseph Riley's business trip to Constantinople in 1889 and his autobiography, written in seven weeks in 1910 following the death of his second wife Mary. It is rich in detail about working life and, above all, about Methodism in Bradford. Riley became a Methodist in 1857 and preached on local circuits; Methodism seems to have been the most important influence on his life.

Find out more about the trip to Constantinople in this article written for our 100 Objects exhibition: A Bradford man on the Orient Express.

Joseph Riley Archive collection description