Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 - 1940

English decorative painter who worked at Goodwood, Sussex, for Charles, 3rd Duke of Richmond, and was brought over to Ireland in 1775 by the Duke's sister Lady Louisa Conolly to decorate the Long Gallery at Castletown, Co. Kildare. Charles Riley appears also to have worked for Emily, Duchess of Leinster, another of the Duke's sisters, at Frascati, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, as well as for other Irish clients. Riley, who suffered from a deformity - possibly a humpback - which prevented him from painting lying down, finished work on the Castletown gallery in the winter of 1776-7 and planned to return to England in April 1777. It was rumoured that he was going to marry Mrs Stevens, nurserymaid or governess to Lady Louisa's children. Information about Riley's visit to Ireland is given in the published(1) and unpublished(2) letters of Lady Louisa Connolly and her sister Lady Sarah Bunbury. The sisters never mention his Christian name, but he was unequivocally identified by Edward Edwards, Anecdotes of Painters (1808), as Charles Ruben(sic) Riley. Some confusion has arisen from the fact that the Christian name Thomas was attributed to him, probably at a much later stage.(3)


(1) Brian Fitzgerald, ed., Correspondence of Emily, Duchess of Leinster (1949-1957), II, 151-2,154-5,158; III, 112,130,141,188.
(2) Letters from Lady Louisa Conolly to 3rd Duke of Richmond, 11 Sep 1774, and to Lady Sarah Bunbury, 2 Nov 1774, 17 Aug 1776, 25 Mar 1777, in Bunbury MSS, IAA , Acc. 94/136 (on loan from Irish Georgian Foundation).
(3) See Ann Margaret Keller, 'The Long Gallery of Castletown House', BIGS 22 (1979), 1-54. There is no evidence in the letters for Keller's assertion (pp. 45-6) that Lady Louisa, 'For some unknown reason…always confused the names of the two English artists at work there, Charles Reuben Riley and Thomas Ryder', nor is there any mention of Ryder in any of the letters. Indeed it is not clear how Ryder's name ever became associated with the paintings in the Long Gallery. Neither Riley nor Ryder is named in the Castletown accounts, which do however mention a carver named Thomas Ryan who worked on the gallery in 1774-75.