Growing up in Hitchin

Memories of market day

By Richard Butcher

Richard Butcher in St Ippolyts Church on 'Three Parishes Discovery Day', 10th July 2010
Fiona MacDonald

We moved to Hitchin just after the war so I grew up in Hitchin as a boy and went to Wilshere Dacre Primary School, which was great, and then to the boys grammar school having successfully passed the eleven plus  – and got my bicycle.

At primary school always did a concert in the Woodside Dell. We’d all march down there to perform – sing and there was a gymnastic display as well. The problem was the rooks coming in to roost very noisily which drowned out the dialogue! It was a lovely spot – well kept then.

A market town

There was a cattle market in Hitchin every Tuesday which was the focal point. It was in Jackson Yard and extended across Paynes Park, the Lariage. We had the pig market and the poultry market and sheep. Some of the older residents can well remember cattle coming along the streets to the market – we are going back to the early 1900s. They were tethered at Bancroft.

‘Jolly’ people at four in the afternoon

The interesting thing from my point of view was that you could go and see the cattle being auctioned. A personal memory was that all the pubs were open all day on a Tuesday – that was part of being a market town. So you could see some very jolly people at four in the afternoon! Of course you had pubs down Brand Street, like the dog, where Argos and Halfords is now. But all that came to an end – I think it was one of the last foot and mouth outbreaks around the mid-sixties which finished it off as a lot of the farmers obviously gave up their livestock. There were a lot of other changes in the town at that time architecturally too – a lot of buildings came down. Like any town it changes, it moves with the times

This page was added on 12/07/2010.

Comments about this page

  • I well remember train-spotting on top of the disused Air Raid Shelter at Hitchin Railway Station, now and again our Benslow Lane gang would find large lumps of Dry Ice still remaining in a recently delivered fish wagon, which we would wrap in leaves and run into the town centre and drop them into the River Hiz opposite St Mary’s Church and watch it bubble away for quite some time, happy days eh!

    By Derek Revell (02/10/2018)
  • Behind the cattle market to left was the old fire station training tower that stood on the corner of Jackson’s saleyard entrance gates ..the tower was a large wooden slatted building ‘that stood some 30 foot or more high inside Jackson’s sale yard could be cars Van’s lorries and local farm machinery being sold at a Drop of a Auction hammer around the outside’s of the sale yard there were many large long Matt black corregated steel sheds containing Rows and Rows of second hand wardrobes ‘tables chairs all old dark wood stuff again all sold via the Auction hammer be it mostly old tat.

    By Steve dearman (11/06/2018)
  • My Aunty Bess used to take me to the cattle market when I was quite small, most weeks because I liked to see the pigs having their ears pierced! How gruesome is that?! Afterwards we would go to Woolworths for a cup of tea, which I would drink from a saucer to cool it down, and we would buy a bag of broken biscuits to take home.

    By Jacqueline Cooper (08/11/2017)
  • I remember my Mum taking me and my brother and sister to see the animals at the back of the fire station. We used to like to see the chickens and the ferrets. I was always told never to put my fingers in the ferrets cages. Guess who didn’t listen and still has a scar on her index finger.

    By Patricia Roy (nee Whitelock) (01/08/2013)
  • As a young child I lived in the flat above the old fire station. On Tuesdays we could stand on the flat roof outside our kitchen and be surrounded by a sea of animals. Apparently my grandmother was appalled that my parents had taken their two grandchildren to live in such a place. We found it enthralling. I particularly remember an old homeless man – locally known as Allah – who rummaged the bins at the fire station and who lived in a corner of the lairage – have I got the word right? – except when the market was there. My brother and I were forbidden to talk to him, but of course we did. These are among my earliest memories along with my time in the infant section of the British School on Queen Street.

    By Rob Guyton (21/05/2012)

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