Category Archives: Riley, Willie

Forgotten Pleasures: Sheffield rediscovers Willie Riley

I see that I haven’t yet written about the splendid work being done on the popular fiction of the early 20th century at Sheffield Hallam University.  It’s time to put that right!  SHU has an excellent collection of such works.   This blog by Erica Brown chronicles the rediscovery of these often forgotten gems by a reading group.  There’s lots of overlap with our Special Collections – they’ve even been reading J.B. Priestley!

Recently the group turned their attention to the work of Willie Riley, whose archive we have at Bradford.  Riley is a wonderful example of an author who was a best-seller and a household name, thanks to his delightful debut Windyridge, but whose popularity has waned since.

Willie Riley (ref RIL12_3 p.5)

Willie Riley

Riley is now having a mini-revival, thanks to the efforts of former Bradford University student David Copeland, who has written extensively about Willie, uncovered archives and made many fascinating connections.  On 25 October 2013, David will talk about Willie as part of an event on Yorkshire writers during Sheffield’s Off the Shelf festival.  Find out more in this article from Saturday’s Yorkshire Post.

Windyridge Revisited dustjacket

Windyridge Revisited dustjacket – my favourite dustjacket in Special Collections!

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Welcome to Windyridge: and other stories, Autumn News now out.

The Autumn 2011 issue of Special Collections News is now online, full of news and pictures about Special Collections activities:

Flyer for Riley and Riley, the family firm of Willie Riley (RIL 10/2)

Flyer for Riley and Riley, the family firm of Willie Riley (RIL 10/2). Click for more detail!  Anyone know anything about the “Arbee” specialities??

  • Welcome to Windyridge: Willie Riley’s archive catalogued.
  • 100 Objects set the Pace: project wins prize.
  • Jacquetta gets Better: new detailed lists of the most important parts of the Jacquetta Hawkes Archive.
  • Holdens Untangled: project to share the riches of this fantastic 19th century Bradford archive.
  • Farewell John Brooker: our Assistant has moved to pastures new.
  • Reading Room Reshuffled: better spaces for readers and books.

Images of the Month: Three Yorkshire Romances

For Valentine’s Day, a trio of Yorkshire novels with bittersweet love stories at their heart.  Caution … spoilers!

Love on the Stage

Lost Empires

Lost Empires

This cover for a 1965 Popular Library paperback reprint of J.B. Priestley’s Lost Empires seems all wrong.  The novel is set in the music-hall world of 1913!  However,  more by accident than design (I doubt the designer read the book), the cover conveys a deeper truth about the story.  Like many of Priestley’s novels, which draw on the picaresque comic English tradition, it shows a young man – Richard Herncastle – facing difficulties but discovering wisdom, and love with the right woman. Lost Empires is more than a cosy nostalgia-fest though: the music-hall world is glittering, but sordid, and the hero faces betrayal and unhappiness.  Over it all is our knowledge, and Priestley’s, of the shadow of the Great War.

(The jacket refers to a major motion picture, which did not happen, but the 1986 Granada TV series was a wonderful adaptation, starring Colin Firth as Richard).

Love in the Dales

Olive of Sylcote

Olive of Sylcote

W. Riley’s delightful Yorkshire tales often feature romantic problems, which are happily resolved.  Here we meet Olive, who lives in Sylcote, a village in Nidderdale.  She looks rather glam, and is described as “a goddess come down to earth in the likeness of woman … she looked very cool and sweet”. Olive is torn between John, “a simple big-hearted fellow of her own county”, and Gordon, “a man from the town, with all the town’s allurements”.   I think we can guess how this will end, but the journey is interesting.  There is lots of detail about life in the Dales and insight into the Methodism that was so important to Riley.

Special Collections has copies of all Riley’s books, and his Archive.  We are helping to encourage interest in this long-neglected writer.  His first and most famous book, Windyridge, was recently reprinted – a delightful read.

Love and the Looms

The Price of Adventure by William Holt

The Price of Adventure by William Holt

The Price of Adventure (1934), by William Holt, is set in the Calder Valley in “Luddenbridge”.  It tells the story of the restless weaver Jack Coates, how he finds his way in life, and his relationship with Victoria Marle.  The striking cover design, I think, relates to the couple’s (platonic) running away together to Spain, which contrasts with the milltown setting of the rest of the book.

Special Collections has (as far as I know) nothing else about this intriguing Communist writer and artist, who apparently had many different jobs, founded a mobile library, and was filmed in later life travelling round Europe on a rescue horse called Trigger .  A flavour of his extraordinary life can be found on his  Wikipedia entry.  He seems to be well remembered as a local character in Hebden Bridge and Todmorden.


Autumn News

The Special Collections e-newsletter for Autumn 2010 is now available online, with plenty of great stories and images about J.B. Priestley’s World War  II Postscript broadcasts, Jacquetta Hawkes events at Ilkley, a farewell to Communal Building at the University of Bradford and lots more.  Regular readers of our blogs or twitter feed were first to see versions of many of these stories, but some are new.

Cartoon plane

Cartoon plane

This cute plane illustrates one of our regular features: Caring for the Collections.  In this one, I show how our induction for new visitors to Special Collections resembles an inflight briefing, but designed for safety of both people and the unique materials themselves.

Windyridge on the Web

I am delighted to announce a new website devoted to Willie Riley, author of Windyridge and other popular tales of Yorkshire life.   The site was created by David Copeland, who has studied and written extensively about Riley for over 20 years, recently completing an M.Phil at the University of Bradford on his life, works, and legacy: “From Bradford Moor to Silver Dale”.  The website includes some of David’s key discoveries,  including a detailed account of Riley’s fascinating life, a bibliography, and photographs.  Riley’s Archive, much of it unearthed by David during his researches, is being donated to Special Collections at the University of Bradford.

Windyridge Reborn

“Windyridge”, the best-selling novel of Yorkshire life by W. Riley, is to be republished on 12 April by Northern Heritage Publications, thanks to David Copeland, who rescued Riley’s archive and has been researching his life and works.   Further detail about the new book and David’s work in this Telegraph and Argus article.

A bit of GLAMour

I don’t think I have posted about GLAM before.  GLAM, the Group for Literary Archives and Manuscripts, aims to bring together archivists, librarians, curators, and anyone else interested in collecting, preservation, use and promotion of literary archives and manuscripts. The importance, international appeal, market value, and intellectual property issues make these archives distinctive and exciting but often difficult to manage.  The challenge is growing, as authors communicate more via diverse digital means.  The group offers a support network and has particular projects to help e.g. on cataloguing this kind of material.  We have a meeting at the John Rylands Library on Thursday.

Special Collections at Bradford holds several literary archives, which tend to be particularly popular and offer great scope for related activities.  These include the J.B. Priestley Archive, the Jacquetta Hawkes Archive, and, coming soon, the W. Riley (Windyridge author) Archive.