Power Flush Hitchin

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Hitchin is a market town in the North Hertfordshire district of Hertfordshire, England, with a population of approximately 33,350 people.



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    HISTORY

    Hitchin is first mentioned in a 7th-century document, the Tribal Hidage, as the centre of the Hicce people, a tribe with 300 hides of land. Hicce, or Hicca, may refer to the horse people. The tribe’s name is Old English and comes from the Middle Anglians. It has been suggested that Hitchin was the site of ‘Clofeshoh,’ the location chosen in 673 by Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury, during the Synod of Hertford, the first meeting of representatives of Anglo-Saxon England’s fledgling Christian churches, to hold annual synods of the churches as Theodore attempted to consolidate and centralise Christianity in England. 

    By 1086, Hitchin is described in Domesday Book as a Royal Manor: the feudal services of Avera and Inward, which were usually found in the eastern counties, particularly Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, were due from the sokemen, but the manor of Hitchin was unique in levying Inward.

    Evidence suggests that the town once had an earthen bank and ditch fortification, probably in the early tenth century, but this did not last. The modern spelling of the town first appears in the “Hertfordshire Feet of Fines” in 1618.

    The town’s name is also associated with the small river that runs through it, most picturesquely in front of St. Mary’s Church, the parish church. The river is known as the River Hiz on maps. In the Domesday Book, the ‘z’ is an abbreviated character for a ‘tch’ sound, contrary to how most people now pronounce the name, that is to say as spelled (as in the name of the town). It would have been spelled ‘River Hitch.’ The Hicca Way is a thirteen-kilometer (eight-mile) walking path along the River Hiz Valley that is thought to have been used for trade between the Danes and English during the Anglo-Saxon period. It’s also possible that Hitch Wood, about six miles (ten kilometres) south of town, gets its name from the Hicce tribe, who gave their name to Hitchin. 

    St. Mary’s Church, which was once a Minster, is unusually large for a town of its size. The size of the church demonstrates how prosperous Hitchin was as a result of the wool trade. It is Hertfordshire’s largest parish church. The majority of the church was built in the 15th century, with the tower built around 1190. During the installation of a new floor in the church in 1911, the foundations of an older church were discovered. They appear to be a 7th-century basilican church with a later enlarged chancel and transepts, possibly added in the 10th century. This makes the church older than the story (which was not recorded before the 15th century) that it was founded by Offa, King of Mercia from 757 to 796.

    Hitchin (and the nearby village of Offley) were hit by what is thought to be the most severe hailstorm in recorded British history in 1697. There have been reports of hailstones larger than 4 inches in diameter.

    The town thrived on the wool trade and was located near the Icknield Way. By the 17th century, Hitchin had become a staging point for coaches travelling from London. By the mid-nineteenth century, the railway had arrived, bringing with it a new way of life to Hitchin. The corn exchange was built in the market place, and Hitchin quickly established itself as a major grain trading centre.

    The latter half of the twentieth century also saw significant changes in communication in Hitchin. Motorways have reduced travel time and brought Luton, which is only a few miles away on the M1, and the A1 (M) even closer. By the end of the twentieth century, Hitchin had developed a strong commuter interest due to its location midway between London and Cambridge. Hitchin also had a sizable Sikh community centred in the Walsworth area.

    Both a priory (Newbigging, now known as The Biggin) and a friary (now known as Hitchin Priory) were established during the mediaeval period, but both were closed during Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries. They were never reformed, though The Biggin was used as an almshouse for many years.

    The British Schools Museum in Hitchin houses the world’s only complete Lancasterian Schoolroom, which was built in 1837 to teach boys using the Lancasterian method (peer tutoring). This one-of-a-kind community project exemplifies the importance of education for all.

    Girton College, a forerunner in women’s education, was founded on October 16, 1869 as the College for Women at Benslow House in Hitchin, which was considered to be a convenient distance from Cambridge and London. Initially, it was thought to be less ‘risky’ and controversial to locate the college outside of Cambridge. A few years later, the college relocated to Cambridge and took on its current name, Girton College.

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