Hitchin: Wikis


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Coordinates: 51°56′49″N 0°16′59″W / 51.947°N 0.283°W / 51.947; -0.283

Hitchin market place 01.jpg
Hitchin Market Place
Hitchin is located in Hertfordshire

 Hitchin shown within Hertfordshire
Population 30,360 
OS grid reference TL181292
District North Hertfordshire
Shire county Hertfordshire
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town HITCHIN
Postcode district SG4, SG5
Dialling code 01462
Police Hertfordshire
Fire Hertfordshire
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament Hitchin and Harpenden
List of places: UK • England • Hertfordshire

Hitchin is a town in Hertfordshire, England with an estimated population of 30,360.



Hitchin is first noted as the central place of the Hicce people mentioned in a 7th century document[citation needed] the Tribal Hidage. The tribal name is Brittonic rather than Old English and derives from *siccā, meaning 'dry', perhaps a reference to the local stream, the Hiz. There exists credible evidence that Hitchin was the location chosen in 673[citation needed] by Archbishop Theodore of Tarsus during the Synod of Hertford, the first nationwide meeting of representatives of the fledgling Catholic churches of Anglo-Saxon England, to hold annual synods of the churches as Theodore attempted to consolidate and centralise Catholicism in England.[1] By 1086 Hitchin is described as a Royal Manor in the Domesday Book. Evidence has been found to suggest that the town was once provided with an earthen bank and ditch fortification[citation needed] probably in the 10th century[citation needed] but this did not last. The modern spelling 'Hitchin' first appears in 1618[citation needed] in a document called the "Hertfordshire Feet of Fines".

The name of the town also is associated with the small river that runs through the town, most picturesquely in front of the east end of St. Mary's Church, the town's parish church. The river is noted on maps as the River Hiz. Contrary to how most people now pronounce the name, that is to say phonetically, the 'z' was an abbreviated character for a 'tch' sound, as in the name of the town. It would have been pronounced 'River Hitch'. (A similar example is the 'y' which was, or is, an abbreviation for a 'th' in phrases and names such as Ye Olde King's Head).

Hitchin is notable for St. Mary’s Church which is remarkably large for town of its size. The size of the church is evidence of how Hitchin prospered from the wool trade. It is the largest parish church in Hertfordshire[citation needed]. Most of the church dates from the 15th century, with its tower dating from around 1190. During the laying of a new floor in the church in 1911, foundations of a more ancient church building were found. In form, they appear to be a basilican church of a 7th century type, with a later enlarged chancel and transepts, perhaps added in the 10th century. This makes the church older than the story (not recorded before the 15th century) that the church was founded by Offa, king of Mercia 757-796.

In 1697, Hitchin (and the nearby village of Offley) were subject to what is thought to have been the most severe hailstorm in recorded British history. Hailstones over 4 inches in diameter were reported[citation needed] [2]

The Buck's Head pub sign, depicting Henry VIII's supposed escapade in Hitchin

The town flourished on the wool trade, and located near the Icknield Way and by the 17th century Hitchin was a staging post for coaches coming from London. By the middle of the 19th century the railway had arrived, and with it a new way of life for Hitchin. The corn exchange was built in the market place and within a short time Hitchin established itself as a major centre for grain trading.

The latter half of the 20th century has also brought great changes in communication to Hitchin. Motorways have shortened the journey time and brought Luton, a few miles away on the M1, and the A1 (M) even closer. By the close of the 20th century, Hitchin had become a satellite dormitory town for London. Hitchin also developed a fairly strong Sikh community based around the Walsworth area.

During the medieval period, both a priory (Newbigging, now known as The Biggin) and a friary (now known as Hitchin Priory) were established, both of which closed during Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries. They were never reformed, although The Biggin was for many years used as almshouses.

Hitchin is also the venue for the annual Rhythms of the World[3] festival, which was previously the largest free festival of world music in Europe. (Made payable as of 2008)

Hitchin is home to the world’s only known complete Lancasterian Schoolroom which was built in 1837 to teach boys by the Lancasterian method (peer tutoring).

It is locally reputed that Henry VIII nearly died in a fire in Hitchin. It is also alleged that Henry VIII, when he was fitter, thought he was able to pole vault over the local river, the River Hiz. However, he had grown somewhat fatter than he knew, and the pole snapped from underneath him. He fell into the river, much to the amusement of his servants. This event is commemorated on the sign of the Buck's Head [1] pub in nearby Little Wymondley. Whatever the truth of this story, it is known however that Henry VIII did hunt in the area around Hitchin.

Hitchin was the location of the Hitchin Signpost Case, the last prosecution in English law of an inanimate object.

Sport in Hitchin

Hitchin Rugby Club is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to participate in and promote the sport of rugby union at all age levels within the Hitchin area. This includes Mini/ Midi (U7-U12), Youth (U13-U17), Colts (U19), Seniors (19+), Vets (35+) and Ladies. Hitchin RFC has a 50+ year relationship with the town of Hitchin, having been founded in 1954. See the history section for more. Highlights have included playing at Twickenham in the final of the national Junior RFU Cup in 1993 and the establishment of the country's first Academy. Currently their membership stands at over 500 people, including active and associate members. They have an community development programme and a Mini & Junior Section. Hitchin RFC runs 4 adult mens teams, 1 adult women's team, and mini and youth rugby teams at all ages.

Hitchin Town F.C. was established in 1865 and later reformed in 1928. It is one of only three clubs who competed in the first ever FA Cup and still do so now. The club is the biggest sporting entity in the town.

Hitchin is also home to Blueharts Hockey Club [2], a leading club since 1946.

It also houses Hitchin Cricket Club, which has been an important cricket club within the area since 1866.

Hitchin has a local swimming club, Hitchin Swimming Club [3], which competes at local level, county and regional level.

The Hitchin Nomads Cycling Club, which caters for many competitive and non-competitive cycling disciplines was formed in the town in 1934. It is affiliated to British Cycling, the Cyclists' Touring Club, Cycling time trials and local cycling associations.

Formed in 2003 and known as FVS TRI until November 2009, Team Trisports [4] is a Hitchin based triathlon club. In addition to triathlon, the club is affiliated to England Athletics and British Cycling.


In 1960 Hitchin Urban District Council was the first in Britain to introduce 'black bags' for refuse collection.

Hitchin also has its own Air Training Corps squadron, 1066 (Hitchin) Squadron. [5] Every year the squadron takes part in a competition with 30 other squadrons around the wing, and for the last two years (in 2006 and 2007) the squadron has come first in the overall competition(Aviation Day). Hitchin Squadron is also one of the only squadrons in the wing with a fully functional marching band.


Hitchin railway station is on the Great Northern Line. There are direct connections to London, Stevenage, Peterborough, and Cambridge. Connections to London and Cambridge both last approximately 30 minutes on the Express services. Stevenage is only 5 minutes away and Peterborough is typically 45 minutes distance in journey-time.

Hitchin is about three miles from the A1(M) motorway and about ten miles from the M1 motorway.

Famous people born in Hitchin

Famous connections

A famous connection to Hitchin is the English-born American actor/comedian Bob Hope, who died in 2003. Bob Hope was originally born in Eltham, South-east London in 1903 and emigrated to the USA in 1907 at the age of four. However, he maintained strong links with his family back in England and still has family in the Hitchin area. Indeed, Bob Hope "claimed to have inherited his sense of humour from his paternal grandfather from Hitchin"[6]

The funeral of the conductor and founder of the Promenade Concerts, Henry Wood, took place in Hitchin at St. Mary's Church. He had been taken to Hitchin Hospital on 16 August 1944 and died there three days later.

Hitchin was at one time home to Sir Frank Whittle. It was also a home of Joseph Lister, and his old school is now the Lord Lister Hotel.



Primary schools

  • Highover School
  • Mary Exton Primary School
  • Oughtonhead Primary
  • Our Lady's School [7]
  • Purwell JMI School
  • Samuel Lucas JMI School
  • St Andrew's Primary School [8]
  • Strathmore School[9]
  • William Ransom JMI School
  • Wilshere Dacre Junior School [10]
  • Whitehill School [11]

Secondary schools

There are 3 secondary schools in Hitchin

Independent schools

Youth organisations

These include:


Hitchin is twinned with:

Districts of Hitchin

Nearby villages

See also


  1. ^ Hindley, The Anglo-Saxons - The beginnings of the English nation, 47.
  2. ^ Tailor, Robert (May 1697), “Account of a Great Hailstorm”, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (Great Britain) vol 19, pp 577-578
  3. ^ Rhythms of the World

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Hitchin is a town with 30,000 inhabitants 35 miles north of London in the county of Hertfordshire. Hitchin is an old market town first mentioned 1,000 years ago.

St. Mary's Church
St. Mary's Church


Hitchin is a small historic market town in the north of Hertfordshire. It is twinned with the German town Bingen and the French town Nuits St Georges. Hitchin has its own character and several historic buildings can be found around the town centre, historic market place, Bancroft, Bucklersbury and Sun Street. Although this part of Hertfordshire is fairly heavily populated there is still plenty of scenery with rolling hills, lots of small villages and single track lanes to be found.

Girton College (Cambridge) was briefly sited in Hitchin before the University authorities decided female students could perhaps be permitted to reside within 30 miles of the older colleges. The building still stands, near the summit of Benslow Lane, but is of little distinction.

  • A1 Stevenage -> 3 miles to Hitchin on A602
  • M1 Luton -> 10 miles to Hitchin on A505

By Train

Frequent, generally fast, trains run to and from London, Stevenage, Cambridge and Peterborough. Station 15 mins walk from town centre. Service often disrupted in late evening/at weekends lately with bus substitution - check carefully if planning to travel with a bike.

By Plane

The nearest main airport is Luton Airport about 15 minutes drive from Hitchin. Heathrow Airport is a 1 hour drive otherwise about 1.5 hours by train via London and the Heathrow Express. Coach 777 (Birmingham - Luton - Stansted airports) stops at Hitchin, as does coach 787 (Heathrow - Luton - Cambridge). Bus 700 runs to/from Stansted and 100 to/from Luton.

Get around

On foot, or nearby villages within easy reach by bike. Pleasant rides (with pubs at the far end) to Willian, Shillington, Charlton, Gosmore, Great/Little Wymondley, Ickleford, Pirton etc. Beyond Charlton the Red Lion at Preston (communally owned by the villagers) is worth visiting, but does not keep extended hours.

  • Market Place The key node of the town centre. No longer used for 'proper' markets, which were moved to a nearby site at the end of the dismal Churchgate passage many years ago. Mostly pedestrianised now, setting off the fine variety of Victorian and older buildings around most of the square. Farmers' and other specialised markets held from time to time. Delightful wooden cabmen's shelter resited here from the railway station, after decades in a private garden.
  • Sun Street Slightly marred by the '60s Churchgate development but otherwise an architectural gem.
  • Bancroft Historically the main approach to the centre from the North. Unusually broad due to its original usage as a cattle market as well as thoroughfare. Still well-lined with old buildings as well as some, mostly lamentable, modern ones.
  • Bucklersbury Historic street, interesting back yards of former coaching inns
  • St Mary's Church Sometimes nicknamed "Hitchin Cathedral", it is the largest parish church in the county and has two side chapels. Worth seeing in its own right as well as for the small shops along the paths surrounding the churchyard
  • Biggin Almshouses Next to open market. Mediaeval buildings with courtyard, still in use
  • British Schools museum, Queen St. Remarkable Victorian survival [1]
  • Fine Victorian stepped terrace of houses Queen St
  • 18th century and earlier houses Bridge St/Tilehouse St. Also mysterious fragments of much older building incorporated in the Coopers Arms pub.
  • Local museum Next to library. Complete historic pharmacy preserved (closed Sun)

Also in the area is Knebworth (historic house and grounds) and Whipsnade zoo


Walk to top of Windmill Hill (end of Hermitage Road) for view over town. Lie down at top and roll down again, à la Samuel Johnson, or sledge if snowy. Walk out to Charlton (½ hour), have a drink or two at the Windmill, and find a different way back across the fields or via Gosmore. Very scenic wooded walk beside the river to Oughton Head (turn West from Bedford Road beyond West Mill estate). Various routes back, B655 not recommended due to narrowness and lack of footways. Go on a pub crawl, Hitchin has many pubs - even on halves most would be in a bad way trying to do them all - at least 3 pubs have 5 or more real ales (see pub section below).

  • Rhythms of the World festival Used to take over the entire town centre for a weekend each year but from 2008 re-sited to the grounds of the Priory nearby, with a nominal admission charge. The 2010 date for the festival is the weekend of the 24th/25th of July. [2]
  • Vaisakhi Parade Spectacular procession through town by the local Sikh community (annually, Saturday 18th April in 2009) [3]
  • Market Theatre Unbelievably small theatre off Sun St. Varied (professional) repertoire, see local posters or [4]
  • Queen Mother Theatre More conventional, modern building in car park off Walsworth Rd near town centre. Home to local amateur group as well as professional productions. [5]
  • Broadway Cinema OK, it's in Letchworth, but it's the nearest available and currently excellent value at £3.95 weekdays (except Friday evening). 4 screens in extremely nicely converted Art Deco building. [6]
  • Outdoor swimming pool (open summer months only) Rare survivor of the 'Lido' style, Butts Close (Bedford Road)
  • Travelling fairs On Butts Close for a few days at a time, 2 or 3 times a year.
  • Squash. Courts in North Herts College on Cambridge Rd (£4.40 for 45 mins, booking required) and in Ickleford (members only).  edit
  • Allinghams Traditional butcher with excellent sausages, game, etc. (Market Square)
  • Brookers [7] Local hardware and kitchenware shop (postoffice inside) (Bucklersbury, note: trade counters on Cadwell lane in industrial estate)
  • Clement Joscelyne Expensive furniture and china (cnr Bancroft/Hermitage)
  • Colanders A wide range of kitchen and dining-ware (Churchgate)
  • Early Learning Centre Toys (Bancroft)
  • Eric T. Moore Books [8] Other-worldly secondhand bookshop, a fascinating Aladdin's cave of a place (Queen St/Bridge St junction)
  • Garden House Hospice Charity Shop A local charity - clothes, bric-a-brac, some furniture (Bancroft)
  • Halsey's [9] (Deli) Delicatessen with a good range of premium foods and goodies, great cheese, also local produce (Market Square)
  • Hawkins of Hitchin Clothes for everybody and toys for kids (Bucklersbury)
  • Hedley Wright Wine Merchants Regular wine tastings, over 1000 wines, (The Wyevale Centre, Cambridge Road - between Hitchin and Letchworth)
  • John Myatt [10] Specialist music/musical instrument sales and repairs (Nightingale Road)
  • Machine Head Music [11] Large range of guitars etc (Bucklersbury)
  • Merryfields Very well-stocked newsagent, lots of obscure mags, also travel guides. (Sun Street)
  • Millets Outdoor activities, chain (Market Place)
  • Open Market [12] General stalls Tue, Fri, & Sat; plus "antique" stalls on Fri, garage/boot sale on Sun, and a farmers' and craft market on the last Saturday of each month (between Churchgate and Queen Street)
  • Oxfam Charity Shop Clothes, bric-a-brac, fair-trade goods (near St. Mary's church)
  • Picture Framer The obvious thing (Sun street)
  • Quotidian Bakery Good quality craft baker (cnr Sun/Tilehouse Streets)
  • Sainsbury's Groceries, 11-5 on Sundays (off Bancroft or Whinbush Road)
  • The Arcade Slightly quaint, small-scale covered way with a dozen or so shops and cafés (off Market Square)
  • Waitrose Groceries, 10-4 on Sundays (top of Brand Street, parking off Old Park Road)
  • Wilkinson Large, extremely cheap chain hardware-n-homewares store (Bancroft, Hermitage junction)


There is a good selection of places to eat in Hitchin including pubs, cafes and the usual range of cuisines such as Italian, Indian, Chinese and Thai.

  • "Takeaway City" Nightingale Road/Verulam Road junction - Parade of takeaway joints - kebabs/chips, pizzas, Chinese, Indian all represented. Area sometimes rather rowdy late at night
  • Bar Meze 35 Bucklersbury - Greek restaurant, £15-20 person (32 Bucklersbury)
  • Curry Express Bancroft - best curry take away in the county, amazing food, low prices, great staff (Bancroft)
  • Just 32 Expensive English restaurant Sun Street, £20-30 person (Sun Street)
  • Khushma Cottage Tiny Bangladeshi restaurant, some unusual dishes, less overwhelming servings than the Dhaka, £10+ per person (Walsworth Road)
  • McDonalds Near railway station, what you'd expect, closes 10pm, non-free ATM out front (Nightingale Road)
  • Murphy's Best local chippy according to some locals, though some favour The Town Fryer (Queen Street)
  • No12 Very nice English restaurant with friendly staff, a selection of very nice wines, and novel English cuisine, £30+ person for a 3 course menu (Bridge Street)
  • Pizza Express Ubiquitous chain pizza-place, well managed and serves good food round the clock. Currently with live music on Tuesday evenings. Always popular and with a nice buzzing atmosphere, although service can be slow (12 Market place)
  • Prezzo Italian-style chain restaurant. Worthy competitor for Pizza Express, but a little more pricey (Bancroft)
  • Regent Cottage Good quality Chinese restaurant on the first floor, the only 'eat-in' Chinese in town (11C High Street)
  • Sirichai Nice Thai restaurant £20+ person for a 3 course menu, Thai wine is OK (Bancroft)
  • Strada Stylish and minimalist Italian-style chain restaurant, with friendly service and a good choice of excellent food, £15+ per person, complimentary bottles of water were a welcome surprise (Sun Street)
  • Sukawatee Serves Thai/Malaysian/Japanese food, outstanding quality, well presented food, £15+ per person (Hermitage Road)
  • Sun Spice (formerly Dhaka) Reliably good value Bangladeshi cuisine, £10+ per person (Sun Street)
  • The Radcliffe Arms (The Radcliffe Arms), 31 Walsworth Road, Hitchin, 01462 456111, [13]. Former pub re-opened in 2009, rather good quality and value food, nice cafe-restaurant atmosphere during the day, not a pub but has a good beer selection including real ale.  edit
  • The Well (The Well), 181 Stevenage Rd, 01462 458738. New management and a facelift in 2005/2006 turned this into a gastro pub / restaurant on the fringe of town. Good food, reasonably priced. £15 per person. £15.  edit
  • Town Fryer Best local chippy according to some locals, though some favour Murphys (Hermitage Road)
  • Zizzi Italian-style chain restaurant, good pizzeria with a large wood fired pizza oven, £10-20 person (Sun Street)


Hitchin is an excellent town for a real-ale crawl; the Sunrunner, Half Moon, and Nightingale will supply you with 15 to 20 ales between them, and several other pubs have a hand pump or two.

  • BOM BORA - 107a/b Bancroft. Aussie bar, large drinks, food (kangaroo!)
  • CLUB 85 [14] - 74 Whinbush Road. Lively local music venue.
  • IVORY - 10 Brand Street. Bar with music in former town hall building.
  • MILLSTREAM - 97 Cambridge Road, a few hundred yards turning right out of the station. Large McMullen pub serving good quality but expensive food £15+ per person. Pints are expensive, coffees are lovingly prepared.
  • MOLLY MALONE'S [15] (formerly Gloucester Arms) - 117 Nightingale Road. Notably friendly Irish-run pub, Greene King IPA + one other GK ale, rather a lot of TV screens. A great variety and volume of live music.
  • QUE PASA - 31 Market Place, town square. In the old Corn Exchange building; barn-like but interesting interior.
  • THE COCK - 8 High Street. Small, friendly, Greene King pub, with generous lunchtime food of a high standard.
  • THE COOPERS ARMS - 81 Tilehouse Street, near library. McMullen pub, interesting old building, nice outdoor yard at rear.
  • THE HALF MOON - 57 Queen Street. Pleasant free house with 6 frequently changing real ales, several ciders/perrys, stays open late. Eccentric cat, excitable springer spaniel. Excellent homemade food, including burgers and tapas.
  • THE NIGHTINGALE [16] - Nightingale Road. Proper locals' pub with 5 real ales, a cider and a scrumpy. Closest pub to the railway station - great spot to start or finish a crawl. Darts, a pool table, covered patio with heaters.
  • THE SUNRUNNER [17]- 24 Bancroft. Rambling and friendly free house with up to 8 real ales, also Leffe blond. Good lunches, door-burstingly busy some evenings.
  • Numerous other pubs mostly unremarkable, some very youth-oriented especially in the town centre.


There are a number of acceptable small hotels and bed & breakfast type places to stay in and around Hitchin.

  • Sun Hotel Sun Street. Moderately expensive rooms in very old (16th century) building in the heart of town.
  • Lord Lister Hotel Queen Street (next to Half Moon pub). No restaurant but many nearby.
  • Firs Hotel Bedford Road. Restaurant lacklustre when tried recently, but easy walking distance to town centre.
  • Thistle Hotel Little Wymondley (2 miles South of Hitchin, off A602). Modern buildings in woods on edge of village.
  • Cambridge, 30 miles from Hitchin is one of England's most famous academic cities. Approx 2 trains/hour.
  • London is 32 miles south of Hitchin and can be reached via the motorway A1 or by train. Approx 4 trains/hour, 30-40 mins journey. Beware of ticket restrictions on trains leaving London 4:30 - 7:00pm weekdays.
  • Luton is ten miles west of Hitchin and is an airtravel hub. Buses to town centre from Brand Street: Arriva route 100 runs via airport, 101/102 don't.
  • Stevenage is 3 miles south of Hitchin, 5 mins by train.
  • Bedford about 15 miles north. Direct bus M1 from Bancroft, 55 mins. Goes through Shefford, with glorious brewery tap in main street, and passes the gigantic "R101" airship hangars at Cardington.
  • Letchworth is 3 miles north-east of Hitchin on the Cambridge railway line. Of minor interest (apart from the Broadway Cinema) unless you are a student of the Garden City movement: it was the first such in England.
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