Answers to Questions


The Highlander Public House, Hitchin

November 2009




Louise Chambers (louisechambers @t of Woking, Surrrey says: Some of my relatives are listed as living at Highlander, Hitchin on the 1881 Census and as there appears to be a number of different families at this same address do you know whether it is an estate & if so is it mainly farming or a different industry?

I don't know Hitchin very well, and the name "Highlander" meant nothing to me - and the best way of answering your question is to tell you how I found the answer.

The first step was to find out where the place was within Hitchin, using the approach described in Locating Census Addresses on Maps. Highlander is listed between Tilehouse Street and Pirton Road, Hitchin, both of which are listed on modern maps. This would place it firmly in the town, and perhaps in the older parts.

The next thing I notice is that the first "Highlander" census entry is for John Bailey, publican, and this immediately suggests that the Highlander was a public house. It is important to realise that many old towns developed along a few roads with each property having a frontage onto the road and a large (often long and narrow) plot behind - accessed through an archway. As the town grew these rear plots would become yards, with buildings round. In the case of a large coaching inn the yard would contain the stables for the horses, and accommodation for the many staff.  Other properties would have had workshops, etc., behind the frontage building. Many of these yards became the slums of Victorian times and have now been cleared. Census returns usually describes these yards with reference to the building at the entrance to the yard. In the case of Highlander the occupations of most of the inhabitants living behind the public house suggest that it was a very poor part of town, with many, mainly urban, labourers living there. 

A quick check of the 1882 Kelly's directory (on the compendium set issued by ArchiveCDbooks) shows that John Bailey is listed there as the landlord of The Highlander. If you are interested you should check other years for the name of the publican.

So is it still there - a quick look for Highlander and Hitchin on the google search engine shows that it listed as a restaurant at 45 Upper Tilehouse Street, Hitchin. So it is still there ...

A look in the book "Hertfordshire Inns & Public Houses" provides the following information:

In 1791 the Highlander was transferred by Thomas Caporn, maltster (trustee for the Newton family who had owned the house for almost a hundred years) to Thomas Winchurch, described variously as gardener or victualler. Winchurch was at that time the sitting tenant. Henry Crabb, brewer of Hitchin, acquired the property as mortgagee in 1827. In 1833 Joseph Sinfield, a Hitchin labourer who had been found guilty of stealing clothes, a tablecloth and a copper boiler, total value 2, from William Anderson the landlord of the Highlander, was transported for life. By 1846 the house was owned by William Lucas and subsequently by Whitbreads. In 1975 the Highlander was closed by Whitbreads, perhaps in anticipation of the interference with trade likely to be caused by the building of the Priory Bypass which opened in 1981. However the Highlander was reopened within a year as a free house.

February 2009

Jacqueline Simpson ( of Evenley, Northants. writes: I have just seen Louise Chambers's message as I was googling to find out if the Highlander pub was still there.  The previous publicans were George and Sarah Bailey, and they were my great, great, great grandparents.  I have lots of information about my branch of the family.

Page updated February 2009