Area Guide: The popular market town of Hitchin
PUBLISHED: 12:04 12 June 2018 | UPDATED: 12:35 12 June 2018
Danny Loo Photography 2017
A picture perfect market town with a population of around 33,000, Hitchin is far more than the (relatively) poor man’s St Albans.
Locals rave about the strong sense of community they enjoy in the town, with summer street parties and events such as the annual Duck Race bringing residents together.
Hermitage Road, with pretty Windmill Hill at one end, offers a mix of local businesses, including gift shops, cafes and restaurants.
The cobbled Market Place provides more of the same in an even more picturesque setting, while the nearby markets provide a whole other shopping experience. There’s a general market every Tuesday and Saturday, a car boot sale each Sunday, the regular market mixed with antiques and collectables on a Friday plus a craft and farmers market on the last Saturday of the month.
Hitchin also has its fair share of celeb connections: England and Arsenal star Jack Wilshere, singer James Bay and TV journalist Jennie Bond are all from there and popular TV drama Doctor Foster was filmed in the town.
Attractions include the British Schools Museum, the Rhythms of the World festival and the Hitchin Festival, which has been running for more than two decades.
The majestic St Mary’s Church – the largest parish church in Hertfordshire – is arguably the town’s most recognisable building, set in a commanding location at the heart of the town. While the majority of the building was constructed during the 14th and 15 centuries, the very first building on the site – a minster – dates back more than 1,000 years and scored a mention in the Domesday Book.
Hitchin Lavender is a huge draw in the summer months, with visitors flocking to enjoy the 25 miles of lavender fields and the fabulous photo opportunities they present. Owned and operated by a local family, there’s a restaurant, gift shop and play area, making for an ideal day trip.
According to Rightmove, the average selling price for a property in Hitchin during 2017 was £414,980.
Prices were up 10 per cent on the year before and 23 per cent on 2015 when they averaged £338,248.
Homes currently on the market in the town include a seven-bed detached house on Walsworth Road for £1,495,000 and a two-bed apartment on Brand Street for £500,000.
The state secondaries, including Hitchin Boys’ School – where James Bay went – and Hitchin Girls’ School, are among the best in the county. Both are rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and competition for a place can be great.
Food and drink
Places to eat are plentiful, offering food from a variety of cultures. Large chains such as Zizzi and Café Rouge sit alongside independent eateries such as Los Reyes tapas restaurant, Bar Azita Mediterranean grill and Sukawatee, a Thai and Malaysian eaterie.
Hermitage Rd, which sits on the street of the same name, is a popular restaurant/theatre hybrid inside a former ballroom. Private dining and live music are also on offer. Chilli B’s on pretty Bucklersbury is a great place for breakfast or lunch, while The Vic is a live music pub with a buzzing beer garden.
Hitchin’s mainline station is just half an hour from King’s Cross, while the town is three miles from the A1(M) and 10 miles from the M1.
Sport and leisure
Other outlets for sport are found in several of the town’s leisure centres and gyms. There are parks all over Hitchin and Windmill Hill is popular for picnics.
If you’re into fitness, there are a selection of running clubs with early morning jogging for the brave and keen.
Hitchin Swimming Centre has two indoor pools and an outdoor option which is open during the summer months.