Hawkins of Hitchin to close after 154 years in business

Peter Hawkins with Hitchin town centre manager Keith Hoskins. Picture: Hitchin BID

Peter Hawkins with Hitchin town centre manager Keith Hoskins. Picture: Hitchin BID - Credit: Archant

A landmark Hitchin department store that has traded for 154 years is set to close its doors for the last time in the new year, it has been announced today.

Hawkins of Hitchin, which has operated in Bucklersbury since 1863 and clothed many a Hitchin schoolchild, is to close on January 15 with the retirement of Peter Hawkins, 61 – the fifth generation of his family to run the store.

Peter’s great-great-grandfather George Hawkins started out as a pawnbroker at 8 Bucklersbury in 1863, and over several expansions it grew to 8,000 sq ft by 1990 – stretching up to 2 Bucklersbury.

Peter, who has been involved for 27 years, told the Comet: “Hitchin’s a wonderful town to be part of, and it’s been an incredibly difficult decision to take.

“The community has been so strong. We were one of the first towns to have something like the Hitchin Initiative, a partnership between council and community. That was groundbreaking at the time and it’s been wonderful to be a part of it.

“The highlight for me is the way the business has grown and prospered, but it’s important how the town has moved and prospered too.

“It’s a tough day, but it’s time to move on.”

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Town centre manager Keith Hoskins has paid tribute to Peter in his Comet column which will be published tomorrow, describing the department store boss as a giant of town life.

Keith said: “Peter has been an outstanding champion for Hitchin – a guaranteed supporter of so many Hitchin causes and organisations. He has earned his retirement.

“Selfishly, many of us will mourn Hawkins very much – Peter’s efforts and wise counsel will be sorely missed – and it will be a measure of the town that he did so much to help build as to how it responds to changing circumstances.

“With just 10 weeks to go, be sure to visit to experience one last Hawkins traditional Christmas and pay tribute to the passing of a Hitchin institution.

“We await the next chapter in the life of Bucklersbury.”

Peter said there was no indication yet what will happen to the Hawkins buildings.

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