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Hitchin

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Dec 16, 2021

Hitchin is a town with 33,350 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

. . . Hitchin . . .

Hitchin is a historic market town in the north of Hertfordshire. It is twinned with the German town Bingen and the French town Nuits-Saint-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 first 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

Parking in the town centre is under pressure at peak times – the unloved Lairage multi- storey car park is still close to the centre and cheaper.

Frequent, generally fast, trains run to and from London, Stevenage, Cambridge and Peterborough. Occasionally, trains run further on to Brighton and Horsham via Gatwick Airport. The station is 5 minutes by bus or 15 mins walk from town centre. Services are sometimes disrupted in late evening/at weekends, often with bus substitution – check carefully before you travel and check if planning to travel with a bike – this is strictly forbidden on rush hour trains to London in the morning and from London in the evening – the driver or station staff will prevent you boarding if you attempt to do son.

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 Airport- Luton Airport – Stansted Airport) stops at Hitchin, as does coach 787 (Heathrow Airport – Luton Airport – Cambridge). Bus 386 runs to/from Bishop’s Stortford (change there for local buses or a train to Stansted Airport) and buses 100 and 101 to/from Luton (the former also via the Airport in Luton). There are trains approximately every thirty minutes to Gatwick Airport (taking around 90 minutes) from/to Hitchin, but these are often cancelled or delayed – check before you travel.

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 for its ambience, ales and pub dining, 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 
  • 51.946111-0.2758331 British Schools Museum, 41/42 Queen Street, +44 1462 429244. In a rare and historic complex of buildings dating back to 1837, the museum tells the story of elementary education from 1810. Also includes the restored Victorian Headmaster’s House.  
  • 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). The adjoining Physic Garden contains many plants once used medicinally – some poisonous. 

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

. . . Hitchin . . .

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. . . Hitchin . . .