Covered Market to mark 250th anniversary since establishment

Published: Tuesday, 23rd March 2021

Oxford’s Covered Market will mark the 250th anniversary since it was established on Sunday (28 March).

The Covered Market was conceived when the Oxford Mileways Act was signed into law on 28 March 1771. The market fully opened in 1774.

Due to the coronavirus lockdown, only the market’s essential shops and takeaways are currently open. Non-essential shops will reopen on 12 April at the earliest.

The City Council, which manages the market on behalf of the people of Oxford, will mark the anniversary on the Covered Market’s social media channels.

The City Council plans to properly celebrate the 250th anniversary in 2024.

Creating the market

The Covered Market was established with the Oxford Mileways Act 1771.

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.

Work started on the Covered Market on 13 May 1772, and it was fully opened on 1 November 1774.

The market was designed by John Gwynn, the architect of Magdalen Bridge.

Originally 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.

The market was enlarged and rebuilt several times during the 19th century, and by 1900 it had expanded to its current footprint and had been fully roofed over.

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 the Covered Market features more than 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.

The future of the market

The City Council 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.

Throughout 2021 the City Council will also develop a masterplan for the market, which will set out how the market could be regenerated and improved over the coming years.

The aim is to make the market more visible from the street, encourage people to spend more time in the market, and improve the public and market facilities.

Oxford residents will be able to have their say on the future of the Covered Market during public consultation sessions and events later this year.

Tap Social, an award-winning and Oxford-based social enterprise, will open a new bar in the Covered Market later this year.

“Oxford’s Covered Market has been a much loved part of Oxford life for generations.

“Many will have joined the traditional Christmas Eve queues for turkeys, geese and cheese or bought flowers and cakes for special occasions.

“My children remember buying bags of broken Easter egg chocolate from Palms and my mother recalls buying dress fabric there when we were small.

“Oxford City Council is committed to the Covered Market being at the heart of city life for generations to come.

“That is why we are investing £3.1m on the fabric of the building and reviewing our leasing arrangements to allow new small businesses to enter the market.

“We’re also looking forward to the arrival of Tap Social and making the most of the lovely central spaces in the Covered Market for entertainment into the evening.”

Councillor Mary Clarkson, Cabinet Member for City Centre, Covered Market and Culture