In the mid-20th C Murrays was the iconic Wycombe department store, here Mike Dewey traces its history.

Reginald Rivett, the founder of Murrays, was born in 1889 at Church Farm in Beeston, Norfolk, where his father was a farmer and cattle dealer. After attending a local boarding school, he gained employment as a travelling salesman in textiles.

This job first brought him to High Wycombe in 1910. In 1912 he married Marion Hetherington, and the couple had 5 children, Christine born in 1913, James in 1915, Murray in 1919, Elizabeth in 1926, and Digby in 1927.

During his visits to Wycombe Reginald became so enchanted by what at that time was a charming little market town that he and his family moved here in the early 1920s.

He saw the business potential in Wycombe, with its expanding furniture industry, and in 1923 decided to buy the drapery section of Dring's shop at 6 Church Square. This he named The Beehive Drapery.

The business expanded, and in the early 1930s he opened more shops, one at the western end of the High St, another on the eastern side of Church Sq and specialist shops in White Hart St selling fashions, knitting wool, and gloves and hosiery.

In 1935 Reginald acquired the shop at No. 27 White Hart St, with an area of 3,000 sq ft, selling household goods. At the time the Rivett family were living at a house called Heatherlea, 5 Lucas Road, High Wycombe.

The second World War put a temporary end to the further expansion of the business, and brought heartache to the family when their eldest son James was captured by the enemy and held as a prisoner-of-war.

The end of the war saw the safe repatriation of James, who returned to work in the family business.

It was in 1948 that Reginald took the momentous decision to sell all his shops except one and concentrate on developing a department store in High Wycombe, based on No. 27 White Hart St. He named the store Murrays, after his second son whose name was Murray.

The concept of a department store was new to Wycombe at that time (Marks & Spencer did not open until 1958). Murrays was known as a 'walk-round' store, and became an instant success. In 1951 the old Methodist church in White Hart St was acquired to allow Murrays to expand.

Although adjacent to No 27, it was actually separated from the church by a 12 ft wide alleyway. So when the interior of the church was gutted and converted to a store format, a bridge was built over the alleyway to connect the two buildings.

The planners at that time specified that the fabric of the church must be preserved, so that a modern cladding had to be given to the building.