Hitchin has been a thriving market town for hundreds of years and its long history can be seen in the many fine Tudor and Georgian buildings that still exist today around the Market Place, Sun Street, Bucklersbury and Tilehouse Street. This central area is noted for specialist and family-owned shops and businesses - a refreshing change in this era of clone towns.
The historic market is still held near St Mary's church every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday with a subsequent impact on parking on these days! Have a look around St Mary's if you get a chance during your visit to Strings: it dates from the 13th century, built with money from the wool trade. Henry Wood, the conductor and founder of The Promenade Concerts, is buried there.
Hitchin's musical history has made it home to a number of musical enterprises. As well as Strings, there is John Myatt Woodwind and Brass, Richard Reason Pianos and the Benslow Music Trust and Musical Instrument Loan Scheme.
Hitchin has some excellent specialist food shops (check out the wonderful deli Halsey's in the market square and Quotidien on Sun Street which bakes traditional breads), tearooms and many cafes, bars and restaurants. As for pubs... in the 18th century, Hitchin became a popular staging post for London coaches and many of the inns from that time, with their picturesque courtyards, are still much in evidence.
Hitchin Museum and Art Gallery (Paynes Park) has one of the largest costume collections in the county, features two art galleries, and
has a local Victorian chemist shop re-created in one room. Tel: 01462 434476 for opening times.
Hitchin British Schools Museum (41-42 Queen Street)
is a unique set of buildings detailing the history of elementary education in Britain from 1810 to 1845. Tel: 01462 420144 for opening times.
In the sixteenth century, Hitchin was one of only two major lavender growing areas in the country. At its height in the nineteenth century a hundred acres were grown around the town and it soon became renowned nationally. Hitchin Lavender has recently revived this industry and now cultivates and distils five different varieties at Cadwell Farm, Ickleford. It is open for visits between June and September.
For more about Hitchin click here.