Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for HITCHIN

HITCHIN, a town, a parish, a sub-district, a district, and a hundred in Herts. The town stands 2 miles S of the boundary with Beds, near Icknield street and the river Hiz, ¾ of a mile W of the Great Northern railway, at the deflection of the railways to Royston and Bedford, and 17 miles NW of Hertford; is situated in a delightful valley, sheltered by eminences; comprises about twelve streets, of generally well built houses; contains a market place of considerable extent, forming an important feature; presents a neat and clean appearance; and is divided into three wards, Bancroft, Bridge, and Tilehouse. It was known to the Saxons as Hiche, and at Domesday as Hiz. It has a head post office, ‡ a railway station with telegraph, two chief inns, two banking offices, a town hall, a cornexchange, two churches, five dissenting chapels, an endowed grammar school, national schools, British schools, a ragged school, a literary and mechanics' institution, an infirmary, a workhouse, several alms houses, and numerous other charities; is a seat of petty sessions and county courts, and a polling place; and publishes a weekly newspaper, and a monthly Advertiser. The town hall is a recent, spacious, and ornamental edifice. The corn exchange also is recent, and is well arranged and handsome. The parochial church occupies the site of a more ancient structure, near the middle of the town; is a fine edifice, in the pointed style; comprises nave, aisles, and chancel; has a massive western tower, with small octagonal spire; measures upwards of 160 feet in length, and 67 feet in breadth; underwent gradual restoration from 1858 till 1865; and contains an altar piece by Rubens, an ancient font, six brasses, fine monuments to the Radcliffes, and numerous other monuments. Holy Saviour s church was built in 1865, at a cost of £2, 900; is in the early English style, of red brick with stone dressings; and serves for a chapelry formed, in 1865, out of the new part of the town and Walsworth hamlet. A Gilbertine nunnery, called the priory of Biggin, formerly stood near the church. A White Carmelite priory, founded in the time of Edward II., stood on the spot now occupied by the mansion called the Priory, or Hitchin Priory, the seat of F. P. Radcliffe, Esq. A new cemetery, of about 7 acres, was recently formed on Kershaw's hill. The national schools were built in 1854; and are large and handsome structures of red brick, with stone dressings. The British schools also are commodious and handsome. The literary and mechanics' institution is at the town hall, and has a good library of about 5, 000 volumes. The workmen's hall was built in 1868. The infirmary was established in 1845, and bears the name of the North Herts and South Beds Infirmary. The workhouse can accommodate 400 inmates, but has been restricted to 332. A weekly market is held on Tuesday; a sale of fat and store stock, horses, carriages, and agricultural implements, is held on the first Tuesday of every month; and fairs are held on Easter and Whit-Tuesdays. A wool trade formerly flourished, but has ceased; a good trade in corn, flour, malt, and brewing is now carried on; and there is a manufacture of straw plait. Pop. of the town, in 1851, 5, 258; in 1861, 6, 330. Houses, 1, 233. The parish contains also the hamlets of Langley, Walsworth, and Preston. Acres, 6, 457. Real property, £28, 231. Pop., 7, 677. Houses, 1, 509. The manor belonged to the kings of Mercia; was given, by Edward the Confessor, to Earl Harold; passed, at the Conquest, to personally William the Conqueror; was given, by William Rufus, to Bernard de Baliol; remained with the Baliols till their accession to the Crown of Scotland; reverted then to the Crown of England; was given, by Richard II., to Edmund de Langley; was held by the Langleys till their failure of issue in the time of Henry VII.; reverted then once more to the Crown; and has been held in jointure by several queens of England. Hitchin Priory, Mount Pleasant, and New England, are chief seats. Preston Castle, or Shandy Hall, was the residence of Sterne's "Uncle Toby;" but was, some years ago, taken down. Temple Dinsley, 3 miles S of plars, founded by the Baliols. Vestiges of a Roman camp are at Wilbury Hill, on Icknield street; and there are some barrows. The parochial living is a vicarage, and that of Holy Saviour is a p. curacy, in the diocese of Rochester. Value of the former, £650;* of the latter, not reported. Patron of the former, Trinity College, Cambridge; of the latter, the Rev. G. Gainsford. Two school houses in Langley and Preston are used as chapels of ease. Bishop Hildesley was vicar.—The sub-district contains also the parishes of Ippollitts, Ickleford, Pirton, Hexton, Lilley, Offley, Kings-Walden, St. Pauls-Walden, Kimpton, Codicote, and Holwell, -the last electorally in Beds. Acres, 36, 187. Pop., 16, 865. Houses, 3, 332.—The district comprehends also the sub-district of Baldock, containing the parishes of Baldock, Clothall, Bygrave, Norton, Radwell, Newnham, Caldecott, Letchworth, Willian, Weston, Graveley, Stevenage, Shephall, Knebworth, Little Wymondley, and Great Wymondley. Acres of the district, 64, 847. Poorrates in 1863, £14, 666. Pop. in 1851, 24, 729; in 1861, 25, 603. Houses, 5, 143. Marriages in 1862, 154; births, 863, -of which 54 were illegitimate; deaths, 485, -of which 193 were at ages under 5 years, and 16 at ages above 85. Marriages, in the ten years 1851-60, 1, 608; births, 8, 244; deaths, 4, 719. The places of worship, in 1851, were 29 of the Church of England, with 7, 656 sittings; 5 of Independents, with 1, 485 s.; 4 of Baptists, with 1, 401 s.; 2 of Quakers, with 820 s.; 13 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 2, 406 s.; 2 of Primitive Methodists, with 193 s.; and 2 undefined, with 250 s. The schools were 31 public day schools, with 2, 219 scholars; 48 private day schools, with 902 s.; 36 Sunday schools, with 3, 211 s.; and 1 evening school for adults, with 43 s. -The hundred contains eight parishes, and has sometimes been called Hitchin and Pirton, sometimes Hitchin-Half-Hundred. Acres, 27, 735. Pop. in 1851, 13, 405; in 1861, 14, 090. Houses, 2, 802.


(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town, a parish, a sub-district, a district, and a hundred"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Hitchin AP/CP       Hitchin Urban CP       Hitchin SubD       Hitchin PLU/RegD       Hertfordshire AncC
Place names: HICHE     |     HITCHIN     |     HIZ
Place: Hitchin

Go to the linked place page for a location map, and for access to other historical writing about the place. Pages for linked administrative units may contain historical statistics and information on boundaries.