History of Riley Park Trust

MR EDWARD RILEY F.I.C. (now Royal Institute of Chemists) - (1831 - 1914) - THE BENEFACTOR


Edward Riley was born on 3 August 1831 in London, the son of Richard Riley and Mary Mitchell.  His father died in 1838 and his mother subsequently remarried David Mitchell and they had a daughter Mary Wilson Mitchell who was Edward’s half-sister.  Edward married Emma Stockwell from Wakefield, Yorkshire, on 17 October 1867 at St Bartholomew the Great – they had no children.  He died on 12 September 1914.


Edward Riley was educated at King’s College School, London and at the Putney Civil Engineering College.  Mr Riley was intimately associated with the early experiments in connection with the Bessemer process of steel manufacture and he did much analytical work for Sir Henry Bessemer during the time he was developing the Bessemer process.  He was awarded the Bessemer medal at a meeting of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1913. 

Edward and Emma Riley lived at ‘Bohemia’ Bisham for twenty six years and were very much part of the Marlow community.  Mr Riley was almost certainly Marlow’s greatest philanthropist.  He provided a nurses home in support of Marlow residents, pre NHS.  He founded the Riley Clinic which was in Chapel Street where Nurse Hackett, one of Marlow’s great characters, was in charge.   He funded Sir William Borlase’s School chapel, provided endowments and was a school Governor.  He also facilitated the provision of a marquee on his riverside land, an initial effort toward the founding of the Marlow Rowing Club.


Like much of the good that people do their generosity rests with them in their final resting place in the churchyard of All Saint’s Bisham.  Their grave is marked by an ornately carved Celtic headstone with an Inscription on head stone which reads ’In loving memory of Edward Riley F.I.C. died September 12th 1914 aged 83 years also of his wife Emma died December 8th 1923 Aged 86 years’.  In the Trust Deed there is a clause that the Trust pay the sum of £100 per annum to All Saint’s church for the upkeep of the grave and this is honoured to this day.


Riley Recreation Ground Trust was set up in 1914 through the generosity and great endeavours of Mr Edward and Mrs Emma Riley.  They spent great efforts in establishing the resources necessary to put in place what is now a most valued town facility.  The Trust ground was officially opened shortly after Edward Riley’s death by Mr H Buckingham, the Chairman of the Urban District Council.  Even in those days the ground had been associated with many important events including the Football Club who had flourished there for years, and the Jubilee and Peace Celebrations had also taken place on the ground.  Mr Riley’s Trust Deed dated 17 July 1914 states that the ground was intended particularly for the enjoyment of young children thus avoiding the danger of children playing in the streets but not to the exclusion of the wider community.


Riley Park Trust is a green haven of tranquillity away from the hubble and bubble of the town centre.  The Trust is administered through a voluntary Trust team.  Until recent years, the park was relatively unnoticed except by the Trust team, nearby residents, youth footballers and, of course, play area children and parents all of which fit snugly into the requirements of the Trust Deed.  Over the last ten years considerable regeneration of the Trust has taken place including changing the trading name from Riley Recreation Ground Trust to Riley Park Trust.  It is estimated that, over this period, in excess of a quarter of a million pounds has been raised and invested in the Trust and this has included the replacement of the perimeter fencing, regeneration of the children’s play area and increased planting and landscaping.  Marlow has several jewels in its crown most of them rightfully protected and funded through the public purse. However, Riley Part Trust is not in this category and has to survive through support of its stakeholders, the Marlow Community and local businesses, and through fundraising, legacies and donations.  The Riley family’s generosity has served the community and youth well over the last 100 years – let’s hope that with the community’s continued support the Trust will survive for the next 100 years and beyond.