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Hitchin is a town in Hertfordshiremarker, Englandmarker 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 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 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. 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 probably 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".

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 Hizmarker. 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 Hertfordshiremarker . 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 Merciamarker 757-796.

In 1697, Hitchin (and the nearby village of Offleymarker) 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

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 Waymarker and by the 17th century Hitchin was a staging post for coaches coming from Londonmarker. 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 Lutonmarker, a few miles away on the M1, and the A1 marker 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 Walsworthmarker 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 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 Hizmarker. 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 [38937] pub in nearby Little Wymondleymarker. 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.



Hitchin experiences an oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb) similar to almost all of the United Kingdom.

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.Past: 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 Twickenhammarker in the final of the national Junior RFU Cup in 1993 and the establishment of the country's first Academy.Present: Currently their membership stands at over 500 people, including active and associate members.They have an extensive community development programme and a thriving Mini & Junior Section contribute to Hitchin RFC being probably the best rugby club in Hertfordshire in all physical, competitive and social aspects.Future: Over 1,000 players have worn the Hitchin's colours of maroon and white and it is the objective of Hitchin RFC to continue to participate in and promote the sport of rugby union, welcoming new members into the club on a constant basis.

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 Clubmarker [38938], 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 [38939], which competes at local level, county and regional level. The club meets at Hitchin Swim Centre on Fishponds Road, Hitchin.

Hitchin also has a thriving rugby club. Founded in 1954, it has appeared at Twickenham in 1993 in the cup final for Junior clubs. Hitchin RFC lost to Fleetwoodmarker. Nowadays, Hitchin RFC runs 4 adult mens teams, 1 adult women's team, and mini and youth rugby teams at all ages.

The Hitchin Nomads Cycling Club, which caters for many competitive and non-competitive cycling disciplines was formed in the town in 1934. Over the years its riders have had success at all levels across road and track disciplines. It is affiliated to British Cycling, the Cyclists' Touring Club, Cycling time trials and local cycling associations.


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. [38940] 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 stationmarker 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.

Historically, Hitchin was part of the Western area of the Eastern National Omnibus Company which built a bus garage in the town on Fishponds Road. Hitchin was one of the depots handed over to the United Counties Omnibus Company in the 1950s. In 1986 when United Counties was privatised, Hitchin bus garage became part of the Luton & District transport company, now a member of the Arriva group. In January 2007 Hitchin Garage was closed down and is currently out of use, awaiting demolition for housing. Bus services in Hitchin are now provided by Centrebus, Arriva & Stagecoach with smaller local operators visiting on more infrequent services.

London Country Bus services also had a garage in Bridge Street, Hitchin, which was the furthest place North in the North Thames area of London Country's vast area. With the rapid expansion of near-by Stevenage in the 1950s the outdated and small garage at Hitchin was replaced by a newer depot in Danestrete, Stevenage and on 29 April 1959 Hitchin's LCBS depot closed for good. The garage site is still in existence today, and is likely to outlive the ENOC depot in Fishponds Rd, and has already outlived the Stevenage garage which was demolished in the mid 1990s.

Famous people born in Hitchin

Famous connections

A famous connection to Hitchin is the English-born Americanmarker actor/comedian Bob Hope, who died in 2003. Bob Hope was originally born in Eltham, South-east Londonmarker 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"[38941]

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.

Hitchin was referred to in the "Hitchin and Wroxham" episode of Channel 4's Property Ladder show. This reference is in fact incorrect as the development featured on the show was actually located in nearby village of Shillingtonmarker in Bedfordshire.

See also


Primary schools

  • Highover School
  • Mary Exton Primary School
  • Oughtonhead Primary
  • Our Lady's School [38942]
  • Purwell JMI School
  • Samuel Lucas JMI School
  • St Andrew's Primary School [38943]
  • Strathmore School[38944]
  • William Ransom JMI School
  • Wilshere Dacre Junior School [38945]
  • Whitehill School [38946]

Secondary schools

There are 3 secondary schools in Hitchin

Independent schools

Youth organisations

These include:


Hitchin is twinned with:

Districts of Hitchin

Nearby villages


  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

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