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DOWN YOUR WAY


Hitchin


A jewel in Hertfordshire’s crown “It is old-world England wherever you turn.” That is how


author, Arthur Mee, described Hitchin. The artist and illustrator, F L Griggs, who was born in Hitchin, described his home town as “One of the most beautiful small towns in England.”


by Peter Etteridge


H


itchin is a busy town with a variety of shops and tea shops,


restaurants and other eating establishments. It also boasts a wealth of architectural heritage, attractive streetscapes, the largest parish church in the county and the river Hiz, which wends its way through the town.


The town gets its name from the Hicce tribe, who settled on the banks of the river. In 792 AD, King Offa founded a religious house on the site of the present parish church, and Hitchin later become a royal manor. The town was once owned by King Harold, before the Norman invasion of 1066. During the Middle Ages, Hitchin was a centre for the wool trade, which brought considerable wealth to the town. The arrival of the Great Northern Railway in 1850, combined with the growth of the corn trade, both resulted in further prosperity for the town. The cobbled Market Place has


10 County Life


the Corn Exchange on its west side and dates from 1851. It was formally opened in 1853 and is a reminder of the importance of the town as a centre for the trading of grain. Gatward’s Jewellers, also on the Market Place, was opened for business in 1760 by James Gatward, and is now in the hands of the 8th generation of the Gatward family, as well as being noted as being the oldest family jewellers in the UK.


Inns can be seen in two streets which lead from the Market Place to Tilehouse Street. Bucklersbury is also lined with interesting buildings, which include the George, the Red Hart and the Kings Arms public houses. The George dates from circa 1450 and was probably originally built as a merchant’s house; later becoming an inn. It has a central carriageway and an overhanging upper storey. It is named after George Washington, whose secretary, William Gordon, was born in Hitchin. In 1788, William published The Rise, Progress, and


Image above: A pretty vista viewed from the churchyard of St Mary’s, Hitchin. Photo: copyright 2019 Peter Etteridge


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