32. A Bradford Man on the Orient Express: Joseph Riley’s “Notes of Journey from Bradford to Constantinople”

First page of Joseph Riley's Notes

First page of Joseph Riley’s Notes

This Object is a manuscript journal, with what *might* be the longest title in Special Collections,

“Notes of journey from Bradford to Constantinople by the Orient Express from Paris by way of Vienna-Belgrade-Sophia-Philipopulo-Adrianople &c. and from there to Smyrna by way of Dardanelles and the Greek Archipelago and with a visit to Ephesus and the district of the 7 Churches, returning by way of Chio to the Pireas and Athens and a visit to Corinth ancient and modern Patras, to Corfu and Brindisi by sea, thence by rail to Naples, Rome, Milan, Switzerland, Basle to Calais and from there by sea to Dover, from thence to London and back to Bradford”.

Joseph Riley circa 1910

Joseph Riley circa 1910

Impressive!  Its author, Joseph Riley (1838-1926) , a Bradford wool merchant, made this epic trip in May and June 1889 to investigate possible fraud by his local representatives in Constantinople.

In the Notes he gives masses of detail about his itinerary, what they had to eat and how much it cost, the sights he saw, and what he thought of the local people and fellow travellers.  He suffered from  travel sickness, fellow travellers who snored, bureaucratic problems at borders, and his inability to communicate in other languages; he also encountered  beautiful landscapes and amazing sights.  He saw the Eiffel Tower the year it was built!  We leave him excitedly seeing Scutari and the Sea of Marmara, as he jostles in a rickety carriage towards his Constantinople hotel.

Joseph Riley's autobiography or Journal

Joseph Riley’s autobiography or Journal

Joseph Riley came to our attention as the father of Willie Riley, the author of Windyridge and other Yorkshire tales.  Alongside the Notes, Joseph’s Archive includes his autobiography or Journal, written in 1910 at the request of his family.  The Journal sets the 1889 voyage into perspective, explaining why he set out and what happened: it is good to report that the problem was settled.  The Journal gives the impression that his writings about 1889 continued, covering his time in Constantinople and journey home, but, frustratingly, these have not survived.

However, Joseph’s remaining writings offer such an interesting perspective on the Bradford of his time and on his own character.  We find out about his Methodism (the dominant force in his life), which helped him to become literate despite leaving school aged seven, his social and family life, his approach to business and how he, like so many other Bradford entrepeneurs, worked with and depended on contacts worldwide.

3 responses to “32. A Bradford Man on the Orient Express: Joseph Riley’s “Notes of Journey from Bradford to Constantinople”

  1. Wow! Have you asked any schools re an English / history project using this as a base?

    Imagine doing all that! Most people dOn’t see that much of today’s ‘small world’.

  2. Pingback: Objects in Retrospect | 100 Objects

  3. Pingback: Taking a Movember break | 100 Objects

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