Oxford Covered Market opened as a market for meat, fish, vegetables and herbs on 1 November 1774. The aim was to de-clutter the busy Fish Street (now St Aldate’s) and Butchers Row (now Queen Street) by moving market stalls indoors.
The original market was designed by John Gwynn, the architect of Magdalen Bridge. It had an open area for fishermen, gardeners and other goods to the north, and two covered sections with rows of timber-framed shops, one of which featured 40 butcher’s shops. These covered sections had stone foundations, stone colonnades and Stonesfield slate roofs.
The Covered Market was enlarged and rebuilt by local architects, carpenters and foundries several times during the 19th century, and by 1900 the market had expanded to its current footprint, with four avenues, and had been fully roofed over.
Visitors can still see original iron roof supports, cast by Dewer Foundry in London in 1839, in the north-west of the market; 1830s market fronts, complete with moulded cornice and pilasters, in the southwest of the central square; and, in the north of the market, iron bars projecting from shop fronts that date from the 19th century and were used to hang meat.
The Covered Market, which was Grade II-listed in 2000, is a rarity because it has been in continual use as a market for almost 250 years. Today it features almost 60 traders selling fresh produce, gifts, fashion, flowers and jewellery, and provides a unique showcase for the very best in local crafts, food and drink.
Oxford City Council, which is the custodian of the market on behalf of the residents of Oxford, is currently investing £3.1m to secure the future of the market, including £1.8m to secure the market’s roof for 60 to 80 years and £1.3m for internal refurbishment, decorations and flooring. The roof restoration project is highly- specialised, located in the heart of the city’s conservation area. The structure is not one single roof but more than a dozen gable roofs.
“The Covered Market – like markets across the country – is currently going through a period of evolution as people’s shopping habits change. The City Council have launched a themed promotional campaign called “Follow the White Rabbit” funding a number of initiates to support traders and market this iconic building and meet the needs of the present day residents and visitors. Events such as taster dance sessions, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland-themed activities, Banksy-style artwork and a series of animal and vegetable sculptures with the market have all helped to raise awareness.
“Oxford Covered Market is the jewel in the crown of Oxford’s retail, and it’s filled with local and independent retailers that showcase the very best of local food and drink, crafts, gifts, and fashion. I would encourage everyone to see this for themselves – and, while they’re there, to do their weekly food shopping.”
Why not come and visit for yourself!!
Oxford Covered Market will be a very visible, relevant and an integral part of the city’s retail landscape.
It will host high quality, best in class independent retailers and innovative caterers in an outstanding and memorable environment and building.
It will be a must visit experience, with a local, national and international reputation that will have multiple attractions and be focussed on the needs of all key Oxford consumer groups.
The Council wishes to encourage the continuation of the boutique style of the Market, with the emphasis on specialist or otherwise high quality products, which differentiate the trader from normal or mainstream high street operators.
The council embarked on a programme of promotional activity to support the traders and the market as a whole. It was vital that this activity was measured in terms of driving incremental footfall into the market.
With 9 entrances it is always going to prove challenging in determining how many visitors are using it as a cut through. However with an increase in visitor numbers this presents opportunities for traders to covert this increase into increased sales.
Countwise listened to what we were looking for and suggested the right package to suit our needs. Delivery and installation was carried out within our timelines. Their after sales service and support was extremely helpful and easy to interpret. They have been professional and flexible throughout.