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Hitchin market place 01.jpg
Market Place, Hitchin
Grid reference: TL181292
Location: 51°56’49"N, 0°16’59"W
Population: 30,360
Post town: Hitchin
Postcode: SG4, SG5
Dialling code: 01462
Local Government
Council: North Hertfordshire
Hitchin and Harpenden

Hitchin is a town in northern Hertfordshire on the River Purwell and the River Hiz.

The name of the town comes from the Hicce, a tribe recorded hereabouts in the Dark Ages. It also is associated with the Hiz, a 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 named the River Hiz and so pronounced today, but its is said that the river's original pronunciation should be "Hitch" like the town. If that is so, the pronunciation is now long lost.


Parish church of St Mary

Hitchin Parish Church

St Mary’s Church, the original parish church, is remarkably large for a 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. 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 would make the church older than the story (not recorded before the 15th century) that the church was founded by Offa, King of the Mercians (757-796).

Other churches


Hitchin is first noted as the central place of the Hicce people mentioned in a 7th-century document, the Tribal Hidage. The tribal name appears to be English, though some have argued it to be Old Welsh rather than Old English from *siccā, meaning 'dry', which is perhaps a reference to the local stream, the Hiz.

By 1086 Hitchin is described as a royal manor in the Domesday Book: the feudal services of Avera and Inward, usually found in the eastern counties, especially Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire,[1] were due from the sokemen,[2] but the manor of Hitchin was unique in levying Inward.[2] Evidence has been found to suggest that the town was once provided with an earthen bank and ditch fortification, possibly in the 10th century, but this did not last.

The modern spelling 'Hitchin' first appears in 1618 in a document called the "Hertfordshire Feet of Fines".

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.[3]

During the Middle Ages, 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. The Biggin was for many years used as almshouses.

It is locally reputed that King 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 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 and practiced archery on Butts Close.

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 motorway 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.

Big Society

Hitchin is also the venue for the annual Rhythms of the World[4] 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 through peer tutoring).


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 men's teams, 1 adult women's team, and mini and youth rugby teams at all ages.

Hitchin Town FC 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.

Blueharts Hockey Club has been a leading club since 1946.

Hitchin Cricket Club has been an important cricket club within the area since 1866.

Hitchin's local swimming club is Hitchin Swimming Club, which competes at local level, county and regional level.

The Hitchin Nomads Cycling Club 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 [1] is a Hitchin-based triathlon club. In addition to triathlon, the club is affiliated to England Athletics and British Cycling.


  1. Sir Henry Ellis (1833). A general introduction to Domesday Book: accompanied by indexes of the tenants in chief, and under tenants, at the time of the survey, as wall as of the holders of lands ... Volume 1. Commission on the Public Records. p. 263. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Hitchin: Introduction and manors". A History of the County of Hertford. 3. 1912. pp. 3–12. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=43569. Retrieved 15 September 2010. 
  3. Tailor, Robert (May 1697), "Account of a Great Hailstorm", Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (Great Britain); vol. 19, pp. 577-578
  4. Rhythms of the World

Outside links