Unlike his predecessors, Rev Riley was not related to Lord Leigh, but they were personally acquainted in their earlier years when Rev Riley had been working in the diplomatic service in the Fiji Islands, as private secretary to William Des Vœux in connection with the Samoan Treaty and the future Lord Leigh was working alongside him.
Rev Riley graduated from Clare College, Cambridge in 1878 and was fluent in 18 languages. He received his theological training at Chichester College and was ordained in 1884.
He was Curate at St Nicholas’, Brighton (1883-87), then Vicar of St John the Evangelist, Brighton (1887-96) and Preston, Sussex (1896-1905). During his Vicariate at St John’s he earned the title Parson of the People.
His appointment to Leek Wootton, when he was 49, was intended to be to a smaller/easier parish as his hearing was deteriorating. He and his wife, Annie Maud Mary, had four sons between 4 and 14 years of age in 1905.
His incumbency covered the duration of World War I and, like many people at the start of the War, he was adamant in his support for King and Country. His three eldest sons served, whilst the youngest was a Naval Cadet at Dartmouth College. Tragically, that youngest son, John (aged 15), was killed whilst flying with his eldest brother, Roger. The primitive aircraft they were in was coming into land at Dartmouth College when it was caught by a gust of wind and pitched into the ground. Roger broke both his legs in the incident.
Rev Riley working with Belgian refugees during WWI
Rev Riley died on Christmas Eve 1926 after a short illness and was buried near the south gate of All Saints’ churchyard.
The funeral of Rev Riley, 29 Dec 1926
His obituary in the Warwick & Warwickshire Advertiser and Leamington Gazette read, “Unconventional though he was at times, he had a very keen sense of his responsibilities towards those to whom he ministered, and he was just as great as a friend as he was as a parish priest. Outspoken to a degree, he would not hesitate to condemn anything of which he did not approve, yet if a kindly word of sympathy or advice were needed it was always forthcoming. Knowing every boy and girl in his parish by their Christian names, the children flocked to his side whenever he strolled out into the picturesque village of which he had spiritual charge. Though he had attained the age of 71 years, Mr. Riley retained his own remarkable spirit of youth, and he entered with all the fullness of his heart into the joys as well as the sorrows of his people.”