Reader David Wiltshire was reminded when reading the article on August 8th about Murrays department store that the Methodist Chapel in White Hart St which the Rivett family acquired in 1951 had not been a chapel for some time.

David remembers that the medical for his National Service call-up was held there, which was in October 1950. Tony Mealing has contacted us regarding his grandfather Rupert Mealing, who was featured in the Nostalgia page on April 21st.

Before serving in the Great War Rupert served as a Special Constable in Borough police force, helping to replace those officers who had been enlisted in the Army.

He would have been a very welcomed edition to the force, as he was one of the few people in the town at that time to own a motor cycle. This proud possession was first registered, with Bucks County Council in the days before national vehicle registration, on August 18th 1915. It was a cream-coloured 3.5 HP Rover Combination, that is a motor cycle and sidecar.

In Tony’s possession is a letter dated March 17 1916 from the Chief Constable G.P.Stephens to Rupert at his address in Frogmoor Gardens. This is headed ‘re Hostile Aircraft’. The letter continues ‘’It has been found desirable to revise standing instructions issued in respect to your parading in the event of a Raid by Hostile Aircraft.

Under the new arrangements the Borough is divided into five sections, vz – Centre, West, North, East and The Marsh, and in charge of each section will be one called the Section Sergeant. These Sections in their turn are divided into Patrols, and to each Patrol is delegated two men.

The warning to parade will not always be given by hooters, but sometimes by the Section Sergeant or by a Special constable whom he may direct to call on you.

Immediately on receipt of either such warning you will not parade at the Police Station as hitherto, but at once take up your patrol in company with your confrere as undermentioned, and not leave it as directed to do so by your Section Sergeant, to whom all reports should be made.

Your Patrol will be as follows – Central Section, under Section Sergeant J.S.Popp, Patrol No. 4, viz Queens Square, Frogmoor Gardens, Bull Lane, Oxford St and Oxford Rd, in company with Special Constable J. Luttman.

Each Section Sergeant will have a motor cycle, on which he will visit the men in his section, and also pay frequent visits to the Police Station to submit any reports and recive any instructions which may be necessary.’’

It may surprise readers that during World War I High Wycombe should have found it necessary to form Air Raid patrols, but this was a very real threat. The first bombing raid over England was on December 24th 1914 over Dover. The bomb was dropped from a Zeppelin airship. There were no casualties but gardener James Banks was blown by the blast out of the tree he was pruning !!

The first major bombing raid over London was by a Zeppelin on September 8th 1915, which killed 26 people in the Bloomsbury district. There were over 50 air raids in total, with Zeppelins being replaced by aircraft bombers in 1917. During the war nearly 1,400 people were killed in England by these bombing raids.

The J.S.Popp who was the Sergeant for the Central Section was the Jacob Popp who ran the Newsagents shop in Frogmoor. The sign can still be seen high up on the shop front, now being a Subway cafe. Both Rupert Mealing and Jacob Popp were volunteers, not receiving a wage from the police force. They were engaged in special patrols and not in routine police work.

In the war years the employed police force, who were responsible to the Watch Committee of the Borough Council, numbered 25. This was made up of 20 Police Constables, 3 Sergeants, a Clerk Sergeant, Inspector, and Chief Constable. The weekly wage for a constable varied between £1.5.0 and £1.10.0 in 1914, rising to £2.9.0 - £2.11.0 including a ‘War Bonus’, in 1918.

By 1920 this had risen even further to between £3.14.0 and £4.15.0, with no War Bonus. This dramatic increase was largely the result of inflation, which between 1914 and 1920 increased by 123%, with an increase of 34% between 1918 and 1920 alone.

The members of the Borough police who served in the Great War and survived were - John William HIND, Amos HOBSON, Walter William KING, Ernest LOVELL, Ernest A TUCKER, William BROOKS, Edwin C DEDMAN, Cecil A SMITH, Arthur George MATTHEWS, Francis CASH, Rupert William YOUERS, and Christopher George QUARTERMAN. All but William Brooks returned to High Wycombe to continue their career in the Borough police.

If any reader is descended from one of these men, or has information relating to their careers, we would be pleased to hear from you.

The history of Murrays - part three.

We continue with the history of Murrays department store, which was founded by Reginald Rivett just after the second world war.

In the 1960s the Murrays store reached iconic status in High Wycombe, becoming almost an entertainment attraction.

Stars of radio and television came to the store to open new departments and the annual arrival of Father Christmas in December brought traffic to a standstill in the town.

Regular fashion shows were held in the Town Hall, with the clothing modelled by Murrays staff who had been specially trained for the occasion.

When the development of The Octagon shopping centre (now subsumed in the Eden Centre) was proposed in the mid-1960s, Murrays agreed to take a 24,000 sq ft unit behind their existing store their existing store.

Unfortunately the major disruption caused by the re-development of the town centre, which included the inner relief flyover road, resulted in several difficult trading years for Murrays in the late 1960s, before the Octagon was opened in October 1970.

James Rivett, now Chairman as well as Managing Director, decided that the original store in White Hart St should be re-developed, using contemporary styling. The 'concession shops' and 'street of shops' concepts, were developed in the new store, an example being the Childrenswear department.

In 1973 James' son Richard was appointed Managing Director of Murrays, at the age of 24. The company was now a diversified business, with the manufacture of soft furnishings taking place in factories in West End St and at the Cressex Industrial Estate.

A major fire occurred on Nov 29 1975 at the West End St factory, which was shared with D. Ridgley & Sons (Frames) Ltd. The building was completely gutted, and Murrays lost stock worth over £20,000, but production was immediately transferred to the Cressex factory.

In the late 70s/early 80s Murrays again experienced difficult trading conditions, and made substantial losses. In 1983 half of the store on the White Hart St frontage was sold, with Principles, Salisbury's and Taylor & McKenna taking space.

This failed to stop the decline of the business, and on the 30th March 1985 the store closed after the property was sold to the investment company Scottish Provident Institution. Murrays Manufacturing was sold in 1986; many of the highly skilled staff who were trained from school, still work for John Lewis in the curtaining department..