Hitchin is a delightful medieval market town with narrow streets and lanes. It once prospered through the wool trade. The large central Market Place is surrounded by Tudor and Georgian buildings – and is where Emily Pankhurst once rallied support for the suffragettes.
Tilehouse Street leads up from the Priory, once the site of a thriving Carmelite community. This imposing building was built after the Reformation and was extensively altered and remodelled by the famous 18th C. architect Robert Adam. Among the ancient inns are The George Inn and The Red Hart – which bears an inscription to the last person hanged in the town (he reputedly met his end in the yard here).
Another inscription records the demolition of the town's slums in the 1920s. It is engraved in steps overlooking the River Hiz and St. Mary's – the largest parish church in the county. Nearby in Queen Street, the British Schools Museum gives visitors a chance to see the only schoolroom left in the world where 300 boys were once taught by one master. Whilst at the town's museum, you can see a reconstructed Victorian chemist's shop.
Today Hitchin is noted for its good selection of High Street stores, individual shops, weekly market, cafes and pubs – catering for everyone, from shoppers to lively revellers at night. For more details about Hitchin go to www.enjoyhertfordshire.com
SHOP & EAT IN HITCHIN
Halseys Delicatessen Whether you're looking for that perfect Christmas gift or stocking up the larder with all the Christmas essentials, Halseys is a must! The shop is bursting at the seams, in the run up to Christmas, with delicious goodies for the festive period.
Mince pies and stollen are from the Victoria Bakery in Herts, Turkeys to order are from the award winning Copas with pies, cheese, cakes, chutneys, hams and a world of other Christmas essentials being sourced locally, regionally or nationally. A Christmas Order Form is available at their website. Market Place 01462 432023 www.halseysdeli.co.uk
Etcetera A complete range of gifts and interior fashions. Stocked Brands include: Sia, Jan Constantine, Pilgrim, Jellycat, Crabtree & Evelyn, Emma Bridgewater and many more. Bancroft 01462 625265 www.etcetera-herts.co.uk
Rubarb Established women's boutique selling wonderful unique dresses, shoes and accessories at affordable prices. 21 Churchyard 01462 451088
La Maison Blanc Here you'll find some gorgeous home accessories including cushions, luxurious soaps, table linens, crockery and more. Bancroft 01462 625265 www.lamaisonblanc.co.uk
Dressing Room Boutique Fabulously unique boutique that's a mixture of style, vintage, retro, shabby chic and all round girlishness. Churchgate Shopping Centre 01462 441569 www.dressingroomboutique.net
Frocks and Frippery Shop here for beautiful scrummy Italian leather handbags, luxurious scarves and shawls from Italy and Kashmir, clothing from Paris and Rome and a jewellery selection from designers world-wide, and more. Churchyard 01462 451200 www.frocksandfrippery.com
The White Wardrobe Designer wedding dress shop, with an exquisite collection of bridal and bridesmaids to buy, and a range of accessories. 45 Bancroft 01462 431734 www.thewhitewardrobe.co.uk
Just 32 Head Chef Eric Huvelin creates Modern British Cuisine, with influences from Europe and Asia. The 3-course Christmas Party menu (6-23 Dec) is just £27-50pp. 32 Sun Street 01462 455666 www.just32.com
Kick Off Sport and Ski Heading for the slopes this winter??Kick Off have a large range of skiwear and accessories for your trip, along with sportswear and accessories for everything from football and cricket to rugby and athletics. Hermitage Road, 01462 452366 www.kickoffsportandski.co.uk
Doughty's Brasserie Sophisticated and relaxed dining in the heart of town. 87 Bancroft 01462 456363 www.doughtysbrasserie.com
Hermitage Rd. A relative newcomer to the Hitchin dining scene, this contemporary bar and restaurant is a stunner. The perfect venue for a Christmas party – try the roast turkey to carve at your table as a fun option. Hermitage Road 01462 433603 www.hermitagerd.co.uk
WILDE Osprey handbags, Skagen & Roamer watches, gold & silver designer jewelery, Ortigia toiletries and unusual gifts. 01462 338747 www.wildeshop.co.uk
Rosita Lollipop Workshop / boutique features handmade clothes for children and women with a nostalgic air. The collections are made from Liberty fabrics as well as vintage and other designer textiles sourced from all over the world, and the pieces are everything from classic to witty and offbeat. The shop also sells 1950s style frocks, petticoats, reproduction 1950s and 60s toys, beautiful greeting cards, and all kinds of whimsical and quirky gifts. Paynes Park 07944 094503 www.rositalollipop.com
Haircuts are fun for children at Little Roots. This is a unique salon where children can have professional haircuts and styling, watch a DVD and ride in a vehicle of their choice, whilst their grown up relaxes. Older children, meanwhile, will love playing on the PSP, whilst sitting at the `too cool` station. Bridge Street 01462 459222 www.littleroots.net