Image Credit: The Covered Market

The Covered Market celebrates 250th anniversary

The Covered Market, one of the longest-running markets in the UK, is celebrating its 250th anniversary all throughout 2024. 

Located in the heart of Oxford’s city centre, the market has been in operation since 1774. From its modest origins with timber stalls, it has since blossomed into a buzzing, expansive marketplace that brings in visitors from all over the world. 

The Covered Market is hosting a wide variety of 250th-themed celebration events meant to highlight its development and growth over the years. The market has continuously supported local businesses and traders, and helps foster a sense of community in the city. Visitors can find specialist artisan produce, cafés, restaurants, shops, and more.

These celebrations offer an opportunity to strengthen Oxford’s business scene and solidify growth in the post-pandemic period. Some of these celebratory events include an anniversary edition of the annual Easter Egg Hunt, May Morning festivities in partnership with The Market Tap by Tap Social, and a birthday party with a ceremonial cake cutting. 

Other plans are currently in the works, such as a potential collaboration with the Museum of Oxford and a merging of the market’s Christmas celebrations with wider anniversary festivities.

In a statement, The Covered Market said the events will “solidify the market as a vibrant place for people to come together.” 

Apart from special events and activities, The Covered Market is now also decorated in new biodegradable bunting and entrance banners with anniversary edition branding. According to the team, the new branding is meant to reflect the evolution of the market. 

“We’ve created this special edition branding to replace all our usual branding and used a gold colour to add extra brightness and a sense of a particularly special celebration,” the team said. 

Since the market was founded before the invention of photography, the new design features a hand-drawn ribbon that reflects the illustrative style of the 1700s. The ribbon design has been mixed in with the modern logo. The modern logo itself uses a serif font to reflect the historic qualities of the market. Together, the special edition branding demonstrates continuity and transformation over the last 250 years. 

The Oxford City Council collaborated with local designer Big Top Design to create the new branding, which can also be seen on collectable anniversary tote bags. Big Top Design are also designing three other anniversary posters set to be put out later this year. Carbon Colour, another local independent business, has helped with printing throughout the branding process. 

The Council has continuously supported the evolution of the market, ensuring standards remain high and visitors have a positive experience. In 2021, a Leasing Strategy was adopted to support high-quality independent retailers while sustaining a balanced variety between businesses and spaces available. 

In 2022, a City Centre Action Plan was put into effect to promote the growth and resilience of Oxford’s city centre in the post-pandemic period. The plan fosters stakeholder cooperation and is in place until 2030. The effects of this plan are evident in the market’s impressive increase in visitors over the years. 

Footfall data helps illustrate the positive effects of recent Council efforts to transform the market. In 2019, The Covered Market had 297,302 visitors in the summer months. In 2022, there were 238,243, marking a sharp decline as a result of the pandemic. Council initiatives have helped recoup and surpass pre-pandemic levels. In 2023, there were 310,283 visitors in the summer period. 

2023 marked a pivotal year in redevelopment for the market, overlapping with the increase in footfall. The Council approved a £6.87m investment to refurbish, upgrade, and improve the market while remaining sensitive to its unique heritage and history. The investment includes efforts to make Market St. more pedestrian-friendly and create a more spacious commercial centre.

Simultaneously, a year-long trial of extended opening hours launched in May 2023. The market extended the evening hours for Thursday through Saturday until 11pm, but working hours for different businesses vary. The longer hours have contributed to the increase in visitors and will continue throughout the year to support anniversary celebrations. Since April 2023, The Covered Market has sustained a visitor rate above pre-pandemic levels. 

The Covered Market remains a historical gem of Oxford. What was intended to just be a meat market became a place of eateries and various traders by the end of the 19th century. It has since survived proposals to demolish and move it, before ultimately being listed as a grade II establishment in March 2000. 

The market has undergone tremendous transformations since its inception. It maintains its pertinence and prosperity largely thanks to Council efforts. 

The Covered Market team commented: “The Covered Market has been at the heart of Oxford’s community for 250 years, it has played a part in so many lives and the Council wants to ensure it stays that way. They have planned many activities throughout 2024 that will be available for anyone to join, in a way that works for them.”

With 250th anniversary celebrations underway, celebratory decorations and activities have been carefully planned to showcase the market’s continued relevance and pay homage to its historical legacy. 

Visitors can stay updated on upcoming events and activities through The Covered Market’s website.

Image Credit: The Covered Market

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