In 1863, 21 year old George Hawkins left his family home in Paddington Middlesex and travelled along the recently completed railway to the bustling market town of Hitchin.
Initially George set up with Mr. Morley, a pawn broker at No. 8 Bucklersbury and in 1869 George married Matilda Sarah Pangbourne, daughter of the then Supt. of Hitchin Police.
George's father had been an iron pattern maker and it may have been for this reason that George was drawn to the premises at No. 6 Bucklersbury. These too had been occupied by a pattern maker Mr. Reuben Shadwell and by 1873 George had set up on his own at No. 6 (still the registered office of the business.)
Although George started in the business of pawnbroking he swiftly moved into clothing as he developed a flair in this field.
In the early years the family lived above the shop and the 1881 census shows a thriving family with 5 children aged at that time from 9 years old to one month.
As the business flourished so more space was needed for stock. Soon all 3 floors were in use and up to 5 seamstresses were employed making up garments on the premises. The family had to move out to Bearton Road.
Business continued to expand and eldest son, also named George, started in the business in 1890. Father and son continued through the Great War and by the 1930's the third generation, Bernard, took over the reins. At this time the derelict building, No. 7 was redeveloped and absorbed into the business. This is the area where the current men's dept. is based and such has been the success of the building development it appears one of the oldest structures along the street. An astute observer, however, will be able to notice it is a mock Tudor frontage.
The end of the 1940's saw the fourth generation Ted and Richard at the helm. Further expansion during the 1950's saw the absorption of No. 8. In the 1970's the business expanded into nos. 4 and 5, the old International Stores site, where our current ladies dept. is situated. In between a branch in Eastcheap Letchworth had been opened but subsequently closed in 1974.
By 1990 the fifth generation, Peter, became the incumbent and after some trading difficulties during the 90's - with recession and Lamont's famous 'black Wednesday' - the business has gone from strength to strength.
We are now a member of AIS the largest non food buying group in the country. We sell toys and other gifts in addition to our men's, ladies and school clothing depts. We have also played a part in helping establish HTCI - a pioneering Town Centre Management scheme that Hitchin can be proud of.
Our last development, the aquisition of the old TSB Bank premises next door, has allowed the Hawkins store to expand its ranges and provide an even more pleasurable shopping experience.
We are grateful for the support the Hitchin community has given us and we believe we have given a great deal back. Over the past 130 years we have become a cornerstone of retailing in Hitchin and an integral part of the community.
Hawkins has had a long association with Hitchin's Town Crier, Alan Myatt, who has been a feature of town life for over 13 years. As well as his Town Crier duties, Alan can portray a vast range of well known chararcters and is available for a variety of functions.
For further information visit Alan's website