The Great Northern Railway came to Hitchin in the early1850s.
As the Cow Commons of Bury Mead and Cock Mead were extinguished some compensation moneys were paid in 1858 plus some more in 1880.
Commoners of Hitchin
On 21 October 1819 the Court of the Manor of Hitchin ruled:
"No person hath any right of common within this township as appurtenant to or in respect of any messuage or cottage built since the expiration of the thirteenth year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, unless the same shall have been erected on the site of an ancient messuage then standing."
A committee of five trustees was set up to hold the moneys.
Many public meetings were held in the Town Hall.
With the compensation moneys the Trustees purchased lands in 1880.
Land Commission 1886
Another meeting was held at the Town Hall.
The charity was formed in an Order of the Land Commissioners dated 12th August 1886.
Under the ‘Commonable Rights Compensation Act 1882’ eight trustees were appointed.
The land already purchased became property of the charity.
"Whenever one of the Trustees shall die, resign become incompetent or go to reside beyond the seas the remaining Trustees shall convene a meeting of the persons interested in the said land for the appointment of a new Trustee or Trustees…”
Top Field leased for cricket, tennis and football, Hitchin Town Football Club being a major user.
In 1911 the Football Club got into serious financial difficulties.
After 1911 Hitchin Grammar School used the land as a sports field and tennis and cricket continued to be played.
In 1928 the Football Club reformed with amateur status.
A meeting was called on 14 February 1989 by the Clerk to the Trustees to appoint two new Trustees.
Eight members of the Football Club were debarred from the meeting by the Clerk as they did not have an ‘interest in the land’.
Two new Trustees elected subject to approval by the Secretary of State.
Football Club went to the High Court for Judicial Review
Judgment by the Hon Mr Justice Kennedy
Judgment was that the Football Club members who held a sublease could attend the meeting.
The Attorney General immediately took legal action involving all the Trustees and members of the Football Club to regularise and change the situation.
At a Court Hearing the judge stated that there should be a scheme drawn up by the Charity Commission to set up a new Charitable Trust with the aim of providing facilities for charitable sport. The Charity Commission recognised that Hitchin Town Football club were not a charitable organisation.
The Trust were required to pay the costs of this case (c. £60,000) which established their modern status and set out totally new aims for the Trust
The new Scheme came in to force and the Trustees have to work to ensure the new aims of the Trust are fulfilled.
The trustees were able to successfully convert the HCCT from a charitable trust into a registered charity.
A 25 year lease between The Hitchin Cow Commoners Trust, HTFC (Top Field Ltd) and The Official Custodian for Charities was signed on 25 September 2014. This refers to the land and buildings at Top Field, Fishponds Road, Hitchin, Hertfordshire.