Oxford City Council and Oxford Preservation Trust work together to restore historic units in Oxford Covered Market

Published: Wednesday, 10th April 2019

Oxford City Council and Oxford Preservation Trust are working together to restore three historic units in Oxford Covered Market.

The units, formerly let as one large unit to John Lindsey & Son Butchers, were originally built in around 1849 and are amongst the earliest surviving stalls in the 18th century market.

In recognition of the importance of the Covered Market, Oxford Preservation Trust, which works hard to look after Oxford’s heritage, is to work in partnership with Oxford City Council, the current custodian of the Grade II-listed Covered Market, to carry out the restoration.

The restoration will be funded by Oxford Preservation Trust, with the kind support of the William Delafield Trust, and Oxford City Council. Oxford Preservation Trust submitted a planning application for the project last week.

The restoration will see the modern brick extension and signage removed to open up views through the Covered Market, and will expose the original columns and fretwork. Previous investigations have revealed that parts of the original shop front, piers and fascia remain underneath the extension; and the original stone floor and vaulted lath and plaster ceiling remain inside the units but are in need of repair.

As each layer of history is peeled back, the work is expected to discover the original Victorian colour scheme which it is hoped can be used again.

The plan will see the units restored to their Victorian origins whilst recognising the needs of today’s tenants, with new doors and windows all designed to enable the unit to be let to one, two or three new tenants.

The units were originally constructed using local professions and traders, including architects, carpenters and foundries. To continue the tradition, it is hoped that the restoration will also be carried out by local builders and craftspeople with expertise in conversation and repair.

Oxford Preservation Trust, which arranges Oxford Open Doors, has chosen ‘Made in Oxford’ as this year’s theme and residents will get their chance to see the progress on the Covered Market restoration work over the Oxford Open Doors weekend in September.

Following a series of recent openings, just four of the Covered Market’s 63 units (6.3%) are currently vacant. However, work is being carried out to split three of these four units, including the former Lindsey’s unit. Once the work is complete, there will be up to 68 units in the market.

Oxford City Council is investing £3.1m into the Covered Market to secure its long-term future. The investment includes £1.8m to secure the roof for another 60 to 80 years, and £1.3m for internal refurbishment, decorations and new flooring.

Jesus College’s £36m redevelopment of Northgate House will see the public realm in Market Street transformed. The City Council worked closely with Jesus College on the development, and, during the design stage, recommended smaller retail units in Cornmarket Street and Market Street to create an independent shopping quarter around the Covered Market.

Debbie Dance, Director of Oxford Preservation Trust, said: “We wanted to demonstrate our support for Oxford Covered Market, which is one of Oxford’s most important heritage assets and is dear to all our hearts.

“We know that these are amongst the oldest units in the Covered Market, and they have some lovely features and original structures inside – disguised behind a 1970s brick façade. We want to remove that façade, restore the unit and make it look fabulous to encourage some fantastic new tenants to come in.

“We are very grateful to the William Delafield Trust for enabling this to happen and delighted to be working on the project in partnership with Oxford City Council. There’s a real eagerness to work together to create a sustainable future for the Covered Market, and for that to spill out into the rest of the city to create a market quarter.

“We are very much looking forward to showing off the progress at Oxford Open Doors later this year.”

Councillor Mary Clarkson, Oxford City Council Executive Board Member for Culture and City Centre, said: “This is a really exciting time for Oxford Covered Market. The City Council is investing £3.1m to secure the roof and on internal restoration, new traders are opening, existing traders have signed new long-term leases, the market is 94% let, and footfall is up.

“We are absolutely delighted to be working with Oxford Preservation Trust to restore some of the oldest units in the Covered Market. This is a fantastic partnership: we both care passionately about the history and future of the Covered Market, and I cannot wait to see the units restored to their Victorian state.”

Paul Birtles, owner of The Garden of Oxford and chairperson of the Covered Market Tenants’ Association, said: “Covered Market Traders are looking forward to seeing the exciting project to restore the former John Lindsey & Son Butchers units back to their Victorian origins get under way.

“The Oxford Preservation Trust is a keen supporter of The Covered Market and we welcome their enthusiasm and expertise in organising this project in partnership with the City Council.

“It will be fascinating to see the plans unfold, and I hope the project captures the imagination of residents and visitors alike as a light is shone on the heritage of our historic market.

“We look forward with keen anticipation to seeing the refurbished units let to new tenants in the not too distant future.”