as Old as the Industry, as modern as the Hour

The Riley family had started as weavers in Coventry, but in 1890 they purchased the Bonnick Cycle Company, as their entry into vehicle construction. Over the next 40 years or so, there were a number of Companies owned by the family, a few purchased, but mostly set up to run alongside, or sit as subsidaries of, the parent company. Below is a brief run-down of the companies and their factory sites up to the takeover by Nuffield in autumn 1938.

William Riley & Son


The old weaving business

Bonnick Cycle Company


King Street, Coventry
Absorbed by Riley Cycle Co

Riley Cycle Company


King Street, Coventry

Riley Engine Company


1903-06: Cook Street Gate, Coventry
1906: Aldbourne road, Coventry
Absorbed into Riley (Coventry) Ltd as the Engine division
Succeeded by PR Motors Ltd

Riley (Coventry) Ltd


1912: King Street, Coventry
1919-48: Durbar Avenue, Foleshill

Nero Engine Company


Cunard Works, Durbar Avenue, Foleshill, Coventry
Absorbed by Riley (Coventry) Ltd

Riley Motor Manufacturing Company


Aldbourne Road
Succeeded by Midland Motor Bodies Ltd

Midland Motor Bodies Ltd


Aldbourne Road
Absorbed into Riley (Coventry Ltd) as the bodies division


Coventry Disc Wheels Ltd

Little is known of this short lived Riley company.

Autovia Ltd


Sold to Jimmy James Ltd in 1938

PR Motors Ltd

1937 -

Riley (Coventry) Successors Ltd


Durbar Avenue, Foleshill
Immediately sold to William Morris and then resold to his Morris Motors

1938 onwards

In Feburary 1938, the Riley Company entered receivership, and all but one subsidary were purchased by William Morris, to be absorbed into his Nuffield Organisation.
For a number of years, Rileys continued to be produced in Coventry, but in 1948 production of the RMs was moved to the MG Plant at Abingdon. After the BMC takeover in 1952, production remained at Abingdon until the launch of the 4/68 in 1959, which was built either at the Morris Works at Cowley, or Austin's Longbridge Plant. All subsequent models were produced on shared production lines wherever there was suitable capacity, be it Abingdon, Cowley or Longbridge.
The Riley Marque has lain largely dormant since 1969 (despite some murmurings in the 1990s), and is now owned by BMW. Up until 1996, the former company, renamed as Riley Motors Ltd survived as a non trading subsidary of BLMC, then Austin Rover and finally the Rover Group. However, after some in-house tidying up, the name was swapped with BLMC Engineering Ltd, and the old Riley company dissolved.

The one Riley subsidary which avoided Nuffields takeover was PR Motors, the old Riley Engine Company, which Percy Riley, and later his widow, retained ownership of until the 1960s. It survives to this day as a subsidary of BI Engineering in Birmingham, called Newage Transmissions.


King Street, Coventry

Cook Street Gate, Coventry

Aldbourne Road, Coventry

Durbar Avenue, Foleshill


Of these 5 factory sites, only one is still in use predominantly for the automotive industry - Durbar Avenue is home to Unipart Powertrains. Of the others, King Street now lies under the city ring road, with the factory partly under the car park for Wickes. Cook Street seems to have been completely redeveloped (as has Abingdon), whilst the surviving industrial buildings at Aldbourne Road are probably in part at least those once occupied by Riley.

MG Works, Abingdon