Many readers who grew up in High Wycombe will remember the corn and seed merchant Jones & Rivett in Oxford Street.

Indeed, the grandson of Albert Rivett, who co-founded the shop with Herbert Jones, told the Bucks Free Press this week he was “still surprised at how many people remember the business and its distinct smells when passing by”.

Gerald Rivett spoke candidly about his time at the Oxford Street shop and his memories of growing up in High Wycombe.

Gerald, 72, also praised the “dedicated and hard-working staff” at his family’s store, saying: “The most happy of memories is the one of the dedicated and hard-working local staff such as Norman Howard, Keith Whiddet, Wilf Smith, Geoff Oakman and many others, all sadly no longer with us.

“The help and great relationships with adjoining businesses on Oxford Street and Road now blown away in today’s world.

“Life was interesting and more community aware than today but equally as tough.”

He told the BFP his grandfather served in the First World War on the frontlines with the Garrison Artillery and moved to High Wycombe in 1919 from London.

He was married to Mabel Elizabeth and, in 1920, they had their only son, Gerald’s father Ernest Albert Rivett.

The family initially lived in Hughenden Road and he got a job with G E Stevens, the Corn Merchants in High Wycombe.

Gerald , who now lives in Stoneclough, near Manchester, said: “He had always been interested in gardening, farming and animals so it was a natural role for him.

“There he met Herbert Jones and after a few years together they decided to open their own business, J & R. This was at 38-39 Oxford Street.”

The premises consisted of the shop and warehouse on the right-hand side of Dovecote Lane and the Mill and warehouse on the left-hand side.

Bucks Free Press: Jones and Rivett was a well-known corn and seed merchant in High WycombeJones and Rivett was a well-known corn and seed merchant in High Wycombe

The pair also bought land and warehousing at the end of Dovecote, next to the Wycombe Cattle Market.

Gerald said: “The business was divided at that time into three sectors: retail garden seeds and equipment, plus pet and animal feeds, coal and coke merchants, farm sales of animal feeds, seeds, fertilisers, plus purchase of local wheat and other farm crops such as hay and straw.”

He added: “The business grew quickly in the tough years of the 30s as people grew their own food and farming was on the up.

“My father joined in 1936 but was called up for the RAF in 1939 and survived the war joining the business again in 1945.

“He married my mother in 1946 having met her (she was Scottish) in 1943 when she was in nursing.”

The couple had Gerald’s brother Ernest first in 1947, and then Gerald in 1949.

The business continued to grow in the 50s, Gerald said, and was employing more than 20 people in different roles at one point.

He added: “It was at this time that I became very interested in this field of activity particularly animal feeds and it became my industry all my life.

“Maybe it was the fabulous smell of the ingredients which ‘got to me’ for a lifetime.”

Bucks Free Press: Albert Rivett, one of the founders of the shopAlbert Rivett, one of the founders of the shop

The family decided to come out of coal sales at the end of the 1950s, which Gerald says was “was driven by initial council comments that they wanted the land for development of various things” such as the Dovecot car park.”

Gerald also remembered working at his family’s shop during the school holidays, packing seeds and feeds for the shop and farm sales.

He said: “I earned £1 per day in the early 60s which was a fortune for a young boy.

“This further encouraged my thoughts of getting into the industry so I left school (Wycombe Tech High School) in 1965 and spent a very happy time doing just about every job one could do such as shop sales, lorry driving, warehouse and mill work, as well as admin.

“This proved invaluable for future years, and I would do it all again.”

Gerald talked about an inner relief road being considered by the council at the time, which he said would “bury the premises”.

He added: “I became a shareholder soon after joining but soon after, the council were making noises about an inner relief road which would bury the premises.

“Grandfather and father fought this but it was eventually be to no avail. A CPO was threatened by the council and, looking back, it was probably a mistake that my grandfather did not sell at this time.

Bucks Free Press: Some signs in the window of the Oxford Street storeSome signs in the window of the Oxford Street store

“I was getting a little concerned at these developments but could not influence the family to move to a location on the outskirts of High Wycombe and start again, but specialising in garden centre, pet food manufacture, and farm sales of specialist feeds.”

Gerald said he made the “difficult decision” to leave High Wycombe in 1969 and went to Nottingham Trent University to study Agricultural Merchanting and Business.

He said he had not left the family business yet but “events would make me decide a change was needed”.

He added: “Grandfather died in 1971 having only been retired for three years and my father took over control helped by my mother.

“He asked me to return but I was only interested if we moved and into a more specialist activity. I was then fortunate to gain the top student award at Nottingham and suddenly, the world was after me with several job offers.

“I informed the family that I would not return much to their dismay so had to prove something.”

Gerald dabbled in the industry for a few years, becoming one of the youngest main board directors at the UK’s largest farm supplies business in 1987.

When that business was sold to another company in 1992, Gerald said he decided to go his own way and started his own consultancy business in the farming and farm supplies industry.

He did work for the UK government, the UN, the EU and several private UK businesses while living in Albania, Ukraine, Poland and other former Soviet Bloc countries.

Gerald returned to the UK some years later and started his consultancy business, ScotAG Europe, again.

Bucks Free Press: An early local delivery van of Jones & Rivett Ltd, 1933 An early local delivery van of Jones & Rivett Ltd, 1933

In the meantime, his family’s High Wycombe business moved on into the 1970s but eventually succumbed to the redevelopment.

Gerald said: “Father closed it in 1980 with the inner relief road eventually burying any trace by 1988. “In the 70s, J & R had become more of a retail focus and remarkably developed a very large flour business.”

Gerald also talked about the famous garden pea introduced by his grandfather and Herbert Jones, called Wycombe Wonder, which rode on the name of the town’s football club name, saying: “We sold tonnes of this J & R Wycombe Wonder pea for domestic growers.”

Finally, speaking about his family’s legacy, Gerald said: “I am extremely proud of what particularly my grandfather achieved from a humble start, and the work ethic he and my father gave to me which still exists today.

“I am still surprised at how many people remember the business and its distinct smells when passing by.”