It all started when...
The Hitchin Society was formed in 1962 by local residents increasingly concerned about the loss of fine, historic buildings in Hitchin. They resolved to do all they could to protect Hitchin's heritage from the past, and its distinctive character as a market town.
The Society was established as a strictly non-party political organisation, and was registered with the Civic Trust as the Civic Society for Hitchin. Early campaigns included opposition to what would have been immensely damaging road widening schemes; the demolition of one side of Tilehouse Street was even proposed. In the late 1960s, the Society campaigned vigorously against the plans for the Churchgate shopping precinct, which serves to this day as a reminder of the harm caused by inappropriate development.Over the years, the Society has worked with Councillors and officers of the District Council on a range of initiatives, and has taken every opportunity to argue for good development, environmental improvements and better transport. Planning applications have been scrutinised throughout this time, and objections made against inappropriate or damaging proposals.
The Society has been the local organiser of Heritage Open Days since 1995, while in the year 2000 it took over the role of offering Civic Awards in and around Hitchin. In 2002, the Society became a Registered Charity, with the defined area of benefit including not only Hitchin, but also the neighbouring civil parishes of Ickleford and St Ippolyts. The Society has for long been an active member of an association of Civic Societies in Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and beyond, while in 2009 it became a founder member of Civic Voice, the successor organisation to the Civic Trust.
The fiftieth anniversary of the Society was marked in 2012 by the presentation of a bench to the town. Sited with the permission of the church authorities on the grass between St Mary’s Church and the river, the bench is now a popular place to pause during a visit to the town centre.
Although the threats to the historic environment of Hitchin and the surrounding countryside have changed over the years, the Society continues to play its role in arguing for the protection and enhancement of what we value today, so that it may be enjoyed in the future by generations to come.