The hidden history of Hitchin's disappeared pubs

Nellie Harvey's painting of the Three Tuns in Tilehouse Street, Hitchin, which was painted in 1905

Nellie Harvey's painting of the Three Tuns in Tilehouse Street, Hitchin, which was painted in 1905 - Credit: Nellie Harvey

Hitchin Historical Society's Simon Walker, who edits many of the society's publications, explores the hidden history of the town's long-lost pubs.

Simon Walker, who edited Hitchin - Glimpses of the Past and The Hitchin Journal

Simon Walker of Hitchin Historical Society - Credit: Hitchin Historical Society

In 1867 George Albert Burrows wrote a song about the pubs of Hitchin. It was patriotic in the extreme, and it ran as follows:

If the French should invade us or ever be inclined,
The Landlords of Hitchin have made up their minds
That if Napoleon the Third should dare to draw near
The Tyrant they will drown in Three Tuns of small beer.
At the sign of the Angel the coward will shrink
And from the Red Cow he will get nothing to drink.
From the Highlander brave he will speedily flee
And the Trooper will frighten him into the sea.
The King's Head and Queen's will together unite,
And in defence of the Crown most bravely will fight.
From the Swan and the Cock he will hook it and run
And the Post Boy and Jockey will at him poke fun.

Burrows went on to mention White Lion and Red Lion, the Adam and Eve, the Sun, the Black Horse, the White Horse, the Eagle, the Falcon, the Two Brewers, the Red Hart, the Wheatsheaf, the Plough, the Rose and Crown, the George, the Bull's Head, the Dog, the Ship (there were two of them), the Boot, and the Nightingale.

Of the 32 pubs named, only the Highlander, the Cock, the Sun, the Red Hart and the Rose and Crown are still trading under the names they held in 1867. Some have changed names – the Adam and Eve has had two different buildings on adjoining plots, and a total of four different names: the Tut and Shive, the Phoenix and the Venue before its demolition in 2020.

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Others – some of them medieval buildings - have also been demolished; others are now private dwellings or retail premises.

The Three Tuns in Tilehouse Street was painted by Nellie Harvey in 1908. Nellie's father was landlord of the Red Hart in Bucklersbury. The Three Tuns became a newsagent's, and is now a private house.

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A longer version of the poem is included in ‘More Glimpses of Hitchin’, the next publication of Hitchin Historical Society, due for release in October this year.

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