A History of Preston

in Hertfordshire

Rodney and Judith Wray

and Val Rivenell

In June 2018, The (Hitchin) Comet ran a story which featured an exhibition by the Lilley Group painters. This included a photo of Judith Wray (above, with dog, the widow of Rodney Wray) and Preston resident, Val Rivenall of Chequers Lane. As a result, I felt it was time to include an article about Rodney and Judith because many Preston residents would know them and also because Rodney was my first cousin once removed and therefore part of my paternal family.

 

I met Rodney and Judith at their homes in Mill Lane Gosmore and, then, Tilehouse Street, Hitchen. After his father, Charlie Wray’s, death (see link: Charlie Wray), Rodney managed his shoe repair shop at Hitchin Arcade.

 

Rodney Gordon Wray was born at Hitchin on 19 June 1934. He was the only child of Charlie and Elaine who were living at 16 Crow Furlong, which is off the Pirton Road, Hitchin. He attended Queen Street School, Hitchin and, later, Hitchin Grammar School.

 

After leaving school, Rodney learnt the family business of shoe making and repair, later developing the retail side of the shop. In the 1950’s, shoes and boots mostly had leather soles, so that the core of the business was repeat orders.

 

Rodney was called up for National Service in the early 1950’s. In around 1952, he was sent to the battle zone of the Korean War. Just prior to his death, he revisited South Korea and was amazed and moved by the dramatic transformation of what had been a war-torn, barren country.

 

He returned to the family business at Hitchin and also continued his enthusiasm for veteran two-seater, open-top cars, attending hill climb venues and track events at Brands Hatch and Silverstone.

 

He married Judith Patricia Davison at Hitchin in the summer of 1959. The couple had a son and two daughters.

 

Holding the baby, Rodney’s mother, Elaine Wray and (left to right), Lilla Wray (Rodney’s paternal grandmother), Rodney, Charlie, Judith and Arthur Wray (Rodney’s grandfather). From the1960’s.

Rodney and Judith settled first at Thatched Cottage, Lower Green, Ickleford. They were both directors of Hitchin Arcade Ltd, Judith having an interest in a bric-a-brac shop in the alley. Rodney actively worked to retain Hitchin Arcade as a core feature of the town. In 1982, an employee said, “Rodney carries things on in much the same way as his father before him”. But Rodney remarked, “After the war, everything changed a lot, but we still try to be old-fashioned - to give a good service”.  The business expanded to include engraving, photocopying and printing.

Rodney (l), his son and Charlie by the Wray shop in 1982

Rodney passed away on 8 May 2011. He was described in his school obituary as ‘friendly, easy going and well-liked’.

Of Judith Wray

As well as being part of the Lilley Group of painters, Judith was a life-member of Hitchin Art Club. She was described as an artist ‘with a strong love of colour and lively use of paint’. She largely works in acrylics and inclines towards abstract art. Examples of her paintings are displayed below.

Of Val Rivenall

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Val was also part of the Lilley Group and a member of Hitchin Art Club. Samples of her work are shown below.