- by Philip Wilde, Information and Research, Central Library
Willie Riley, in his mid-forties, wrote Windyridge as an amusement, a distraction, for his wife, Clara, and two female friends, Ethel and Florence Bolton. It would be the first of some 39 books he was to write, the last being published a few months before he died in 1961 aged ninety-five.
Windyridge, published in 1912, is based upon Riley’s favourite West Yorkshire village, Hawksworth, on the edge of the moors near Guiseley, and tells the story of Grace Holden who, needing a break from the turmoil of London Town, heeds the call of the heather and falls under the spell of the village of Windyridge.
The novel went on to sell over half a million copies making Willie Riley a household name. Houses from here to the other side of the world were being named ‘Windyridge’ as a result of the huge popularity of this charming book. Not long before he died, Willie Riley gave to Leeds Central Library the original manuscript of this forgotten little gem.
In 2017, a relative of Willie donated to the Central Library a complete set of Riley’s books. Many of these have personal dedications by the author written inside to members of his family, mainly his first wife, Clara, and second wife, Edith. Willie pasted newspaper reviews of his books inside, too. The collection also contains a number of Willie’s unpublished short novels, sermons and book reviews.
Other books by Riley are available in our Local and Family History and Information and Research departments. Bradford University Library’s Special Collections department holds an archive of Willie Riley’s manuscripts and other papers and a further collection of his books.
To view items from the WILLIE RILEY Collection, please visit the Local and Family History department on the 2nd Floor of the Central Library. Two forms of ID (one with your name and another with your address) and at least 24-hours notice will be required to view items from the Treasures or Collections. Please call 0113 378 5005 for further details and to book an appointment.