The 23-year-old finished in 51.51sec, beating Sweden's Lars Frolander by 0.02sec. Hickman's time was less than half a second outside his own world record, set in Sheffield last December, and 0.27sec faster than his morning swim.
Frolander was level with Hickman throughout the race but the Briton just had the edge when it mattered at the final touch. "It felt all right. I think I am a lot more relaxed now I've done a finals session," Hickman said.
The British girls' 4x100m freestyle quartet won Britain's first medal, a silver. After setting a new European record in the morning heats, they hoped to be chasing gold in the final but unfortunately the Swedish women proved too strong.
From the morning heats Vicki Horner was replaced by the former world short course champion, Karen Pickering. Claire Huddart, Karen Legg, Nicola Jackson and Pickering produced an outstanding team effort to take silver in a British and Commonwealth record of 7min 53.98sec. The Swedes broke the world record set by China at the championships two years ago.
Susan Rolph qualified for today's 100m freestyle final in fourth spot, despite her goggles slipping and preventing her from seeing the end of the pool.
The 20-year-old European Short Course champion said afterwards: "I couldn't see the wall, but I'm happy." The fastest qualifier was the world champion, Jenny Thompson of the United States, who recorded 53.27sec.
Yorkshire-born Zoe Baker, now based in New Zealand, finished a creditable seventh in the 50m breaststroke final. Her time of 31.55sec was one-hundredth outside her own six-week-old British record. Masami Tanaka, of Japan, took the gold medal.
Baker was disappointed, though, and said: "I was going for a medal but I lost so much on the pull out underwater. The swimming speed is fine but I am just not happy with the way I pull out after the start and turn."
A 15-year-old schoolgirl clocked Britain's fastest time in the 4x200m freestyle silver medal success. Nicola Jackson, from Derwentside, North Yorkshire, swam the fastest of the four split times - 1:57.81 - followed by Karen Pickering, whose second fastest split of 1:57.90 brought Britain back into contention for gold.
"It was very hard," Jackson said. "I think it's the only medal I'll win at this meet so I'm thrilled."
Margaretha Pedder was disappointed with her swim in the final of the 200m butterfly after the 18-year-old from Portsmouth had set a British record swim in the morning heats. Her time of 2min 10.76sec was 0.55sec slower than her heat swim, Mette Jacobsen from Denmark winning gold with a European record of 2min 06.52sec.
Britain also just missed out on a medal when they finished fourth in the 4x100m men's freestyle relay. Australia took the gold in 3min 11.21sec, ahead of the Netherlands and Sweden, with Britain clocking 3min 14.49sec.Reuse content