HITCHIN has managed to retain its character better than some of the surrounding towns. Parts of the centre still remain in a medieval time-warp – the Market Place, the lanes leading off it to the cathedral-sized St Mary’s church and the River Hiz. Tilehouse Street, now relieved of all its through traffic, remains just as medieval England must have known it; and Bancroft was once admired as one of the best urban streets in England. It is a classic small market town, once famous for straw-plaiting, surrounded by popular commuter villages. The shopping centre is good enough with a large traditional market (three times a week), bars and restaurants. In the town itself four- to five-bedroom houses sell for £450,000 to £550,000. Large three-bedroom semis on the south side of the town can be bought for around £250,000. The Avenue, Wymondley Road and Benslow Lane are quiet leafy roads only 15 minutes’ walk from the station, and contain some rather grand houses. Large Victorian and Edwardian houses in The Avenue tend to sell for up to £800,000.
The villages of Gosmore and Charlton to the south are very close to Hitchin and therefore desirable. Gosmore has a green and some very pretty period houses. You could spend anything from £225,000 for a tiny two-bedroom cottage to over £350,000 for a three-bedroom period house. Pirton also scores because it isn’t linear like many of the other villages in the area, but has a compact rounded shape, which affects the social dynamics and makes it a more convivial place to live. A Victorian three-bedroom semi will cost around £350,000.
Great Wymondley and Little Wymondley also loom in the Hitchin firmament, the irony being that Little Wymondley is by far the larger of the two. Great Wymondley is little more than an untidy crossroads with a few cottages, a pub, and the humps of a medieval castle. A bypass has relieved Little Wymondley of traffic, causing house prices to rise. A two-bedroom period cottage will now cost £250,000.
St Ippollits (sometimes just called Ippollits, and spelled in a variety of different ways) is a pretty hilltop village with smartly painted timbered houses and a dominating church, which gives the village its name. New four-bedroom executive homes cost £400,000. Commuters from St Ippollitts and the Wymondleys also have the option of travelling from Stevenage, where car-parking is easier. Anyone buying round here needs to bear in mind that there is huge pressure to build thousands of new houses on the land between Stevenage and Hitchin.