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"Hitchin is a populous market town and parish in the hundred of Hitchin and Pirton - 34 miles N. N. W. of London, 16 N. W. of Hertford, and 17 S. E. of Bedford; delightfully situated on the river Hiz, at the base of a hill which shelters it from the easterly winds. The town has a high claim to antiquity, having been a place of considerable importance in the reign of Alfred, and formerly comprised in the Mercian territory. According to Norden its name is derived from a wood, called Hitch, which in the Saxon ages flourished at one end of the town. Two priories were founded here - one for nuns of the Gilbertine order, the other for White Carmelites: remnants of these religious houses are still in existence; the former, now called New Biggin, near the church - the latter, towards the western extremity of the town, called the Priory, and forming part of the estate of F. P. D. Radcliffe, Esq. Many antiques have been discovered near Hitchin; among others a portable Roman altar was dug up in the orchard of the late Rev. Samuel James M.A., in the beginning of the last century.
"The town is divided into three wards, namely Bancroft, Tilehouse and Bridge, for the whole of which two constables and four headboroughs are appointed at the court leet of the lord of the manor (Wm. Wilshire, Esq.), held at Michaelmas. The county magistrates hold petty sessions here every Tuesday.
"The streets are for the most part spacious, partially paved, and lighted with gas; the environs are pleasant, and many noble mansions have lately been erected. As the district around is exclusively agricultural, corn, malt and flour are the principal articles of trade at Hitchin; the soil in the vicinity is peculiarly favourable to the growth of barley, of which great quantities are sold at the market - one of the best attended in the county. There are several breweries, two or three of which are upon a large scale; malting is carried on extensively, and many females are employed in making straw plat.
"The places of worship are the parish church, a large baptist chapel with a cemetery, two for independents, one for methodists, and a meeting-house for the society of friends. A free grammar school, endowed schools for boys and also girls, with infant, national and Sunday schools, benevolent bequests, apprenticeship funds, an admirably conducted dispensary, alms-houses, &c., form the principal charities. A public subscription library has been some years established, and there are several book societies.
"The market (toll-free) is held on Tuesday; the fairs, or rather holiday markets, are held in Easter and Whitsun weeks. Population of the parish, in 1831, 5,211."
[From Royal National and Commercial Directory and Topography of Herts, Pigot & Co., London, 1839]


Jeff KNAGGS has provided a transcript of monumental inscriptions in Hitchin Cemetery:-

Jill Ashby has a Herts Burials and Memorials website which contains over 30,000 photographs of graves and monuments in mid-Hertfordshire, including Essendon, Hatfield, Hertford, Hitchin, Lemsford, Northaw, Potters Bar, Redbourne, Sandridge, St. Albans, Stevenage, Welwyn Garden City, and Wheathampstead.

Church History

"The venerable and beautiful church, situated near the centre of the town, was originally dedicated to St. Andrew; but on being rebuilt, prior to the reign of Henry VIII, it was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is a spacious structure of stone, chiefly in the later style of English architecture, with a low massive embattled tower, surmounted by a spire; the south porch is a splendid enriched specimen of that style. The interior is highly ornamented: on each side of the chancel is a chapel; and over the altar is a fine painting, by Rubens, of the offerings of the wise men of the east; there I also a font of singular beauty, with carvings of the twelve apostles. The benefice is a vicarage, in the disposal of Trinity college, Cambridge, and incumbency of the Rev. Henry Wiles."
[From Royal National and Commercial Directory and Topography of Herts, Pigot & Co., London, 1839]

Church Records

The Parish Registers for the Parish church of St. Mary for the periods:-

are deposited at Hertfordshire Record Office, County Hall, Hertford, SG13 8DE. [D/P53]

Entries from the Marriage Registers for the period 1562-1837 are included in The Allen Index at Hertfordshire Record Office.

The period 1562-1875 is covered by the IGI.

Transcripts of the parish registers for the period 1562-1943 are deposited at the Society of Genealogists, 14 Charterhouse Buildings, Goswell Road, LONDON, EC1M 7BA.

The following records for churches in the ancient parish of Hitchin are also available at Hertfordshire Record Office, County Hall, Hertford, SG13 8DE.:-


There is an excellent web site on the history of the village of Preston.

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