“ The Covered Market was started in response to a general wish to clear untidy, mess and unsavoury stalls from the main streets. John Gwynn architect of Magdalen Bridge, drew up the plans and designed the High Street front with its four entrances. In 1772 the newly-formed Market committee (half of whose members came from the town and half from the university) accepted an estimate of nine hundred and sixteen pounds ten shillings, for building twenty butchers shops. Twenty more soon followed and after 1773 meat was only allowed to be sold inside the market. From this nucleus the market grew, with stalls for garden produce, pig meat, dairy products and fish. The earliest stalls were in colonnaded blocks: the high-raftered roofs of today are the outcome of nineteenth century rebuilding. Some stalls are used as single units but many traders have expanded their businesses and taken over several tenancies. Today you can still buy a great selection of meat and fish here, and numerous cheeses, but the scope of trading has enlarged since the early days. Fruit and vegetable stalls still make colourful displays but much of the produce is now imported from all over the world. You will find all sorts of goods, clothes, records, pine furniture and much, much, more. As with many a market, its smells are part of the atmosphere. It may be the smell of fresh ground coffee that draws you in for refreshment, but it could be the attractive displays of the tenants, flowers, fruit, and so on that prompts you to look for the unexpected or special gift. If the spice of life is variety, then it will be seen here. „
~Tourists Love it~
Tourists seem to love Oxford's Covered Market but to me it just used to be my 'local' place where I got my lunch when the college canteen had nothing I fancied, where I had fry-up hangover breakfasts in Brown's Café, bought my fruit and veg (though as a student, perhaps biscuits and chocolate would be more accurate) and bought minced meat so cheap that I would probably be insane by now from all the BSE prions I must have ingested if I'd not given up eating the stuff over 20 years ago. Even though I did eat meat back in those days, I always found the butchers shops disturbing and would have to design special routes through the market to avoid being confronted by row upon row of hanging corpses of everything from little bunny rabbits and game birds up to giant stags. Amazingly, despite all the evolving food hygiene legislation you can still find furry corpses dangling on hooks and it's worth being aware of that if you're taking squeamish children (or vegetarians) for a stroll through the market.
~Keeping the place tidy~
The market has been on its present site since the 18th century when the market was established in an attempt to keep the worst mess of a lively market off the city's main streets. So much easier at the end of the day to just lock the doors of an enclosed market space than to have to worry about rotting veg and entrails stinking up the High Street (or maybe it was so named because it stunk?) In the early days of the 1770s the market sold mostly meat and there were 20 butchery businesses trading from the premises. We can only wonder what those tough blood-covered finger-missing butchers would have thought of the 21st Century version of their marketplace being home to so many units selling over-priced and under-needed fripperies such as hand made jewellery and nick nacks.
On almost every visit to Oxford I cut through the market and have a nose around though I can't recall the last time I bought anything more than a warm cookie or a cup of coffee. My most recent visit was to drag my Australian aunt and uncle through the market as a short cut to my old college. I thought it would take a few minutes but I soon learned that like a magpie, my aunt is attracted to every shiny pretty thing she passes (and shoes) whilst my uncle was usually heading off in the opposite direction. Then my husband went off to the gents by the Market Street entrance and got lost. It was like trying to herd cats.
The Market occupies a full block between Turl Steet, Market Street, the High and the Cornmarket Street (the main pedestrian shopping street). According to the market's website (yes, it even has a website) it's "one of the most sought out destinations for shoppers" and it's a "refreshingly relaxed and retail experience". Well I can certainly confirm that it is popular if popular means stuffed to the gunnels but I'd take issue with the word 'relaxed'. It wasn't an easy place to be in but this time it wasn't due to the corpses but to the mass of living bodies. Never try to get in the middle of a coach party of Japanese tourists in July and never make the mistake of dropping in on the final Saturday of any student term, as a friend and I did last December, when every student seemed to have at least three relatives up to collect them and every civilian for miles around was trying to do their shopping. Getting through the narrow lanes of the market was nightmarish.
What surprised me most was discovering how many of the shops were unchanged since I'd been a student in the mid 1980s. Why is that so surprising? Well mostly because very little of the stuff they sell in the market (with the exception of the food stores) is actually stuff you really need. These are the sort of shops that have failed in their hundreds during the recession but in central Oxford where a Women's Institute vision of twee gentility still persists, there is still enough business for cobblers, specialist outlets hand made everything-you-can-imagine and quirky T-shirt sellers to keep the premises full to bursting. There are enough shoe shops to keep the entire population of Oxford well shod for a lifetime.
~If you're thinking "I never knew I needed one of them" then you probably don't~
There's a shop that sells cake decorating equipment. Now WHY would you need that in the middle of a predominantly studenty town where no student has baked a cake in decades? There's a whole shop that specialises in making fresh pasta. But most of the places either sell overpriced nicknacks or overpriced food. There's a shop called 'Nothing' and its neighbour 'Next to Nothing' which seem to still stock the same knitted jackets that were there 25 years ago. The names weren't funny then and haven't got any funnier in the meantime. The jewellery looks exactly the same too. When I step into the market it's like entering a time warp where almost nothing seems to have changed. However there are some great things that lifted my spirits. Browns Café is a wonderful warm, cosy place to sup a big mug of tea, coffee or hot chocolate and these days they even stock Portuguese-style Pastel del Nata, those fabulous little flaky custard tarts. Ben's Cookies, the first fresh cookie provider I ever knew, is still going strong from a tiny unit just inside the entrance from The High and making the best and freshest soft cookies that money can buy. There's a gorgeous traditional old pet shop that I have always loved to browse in and you can get some of the best sandwiches and other take away food in the country from the sandwich bars within.
The Covered Market does perhaps on balance deserve its reputation as a quirky and very individual shopping experience. The total absence of chain-stores and multiples is refreshing and sadly absent on the streets of Oxford outside where you'll find few stores that don't' appear on every High Street in the land. And if you can arrange to go at a time when it's not quite so busy, I suppose it is worth a mooch around if only to remind yourself of all we've lost elsewhere.
The market is open daily Monday to Saturday from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm and from 10 am to 4 pm on Sundays (although I remain unconvinced that it's always open on a Sunday as I'm sure I've been there and not been able to get in out of term time). It's worth a look - just take care to not be so dazzled by the tat within that you forget that you don't actually need or really want most of what's for sale.
At this time of year the covered market is a very popular place in Oxford and having lived in oxford for 25yrs it has always been a popular place.
The top attractions with students are Bens Cookies (one word- amazing) and theres a new milkshake place which is also very popular. Another reason to visit is for the butchers. They have all kinds of meat and at great prices too. It is a huge attraction at christmas time when the butchers hang the dead aniamls from the roof, theres hundreds of deer, rabbits, turkeys, chickens... some say traditional, others say sickening! But with the christmas tree in the middle it does create a christmas feel.
Other great shops include Nothing and Next to nothing. you'll find quirky little bits in there, although a bit pricey!
There are all sorts of weird a wonderful shops to explore and a great hit with tourists!
As a student at Oxford, my introduction to the Covered Market was Ben's Cookies - the sweet, irresistible scent of Ben's varieties of cookies drew many a student in, though the food stalls were unable to keep them there. The French baguette place (forgive me, for the name escapes me! But closer to the High Street side than the Cornmarket side) was a favourite for lunch, as was Pie Minister further in.
But I shied away from the produce sellers and butchers of the Covered Market initially as I feared that their organic produce and meats would mean premium prices, making it simply not complementary to my student lifestyle!
But finding myself wandering its stalls in-between lectures once, however, I discovered its goods extended far beyond Ben's Cookies - and weren't nearly as punishing to my pocket as my weekly Tesco's run was! A vivid memory is paying less than £2 for my weekly vegetables (broccoli, spring onions, and tomatoes), and just over that for a week and a half's worth of organic chicken, plus eggs. I'm sure prices are slightly more than that now, a handful of years on, but it'll surely be equivalent to Tesco Value prices.
If you are unsure of whether or not you can be bothered to take the extra 30 seconds to wash your fruit and veg before you cook it, or you're worried about your Clubcard points, know that the experience of doing your weekly shop at the Covered Market is unparalleled - knowing that you're supporting the local community and this historic piece of Oxford is great fun and hugely rewarding. Whilst it is slightly more time consuming than the one shop to Tescos on Cowley, ultimately, if you know what you're looking for and where to find it (which you'll pick up, eventually, after some time), and manage to go at an off-peak time, then the time difference is minimal.
Obviously if you're working 9 to 5, it's a bit harder to commit to this choice, but students shouldn't immediately dismiss this valuable alternative to Sainsburys or Tescos. Get to know your local Covered Market - you'll reap monetary AND personal rewards!
Located in the centre of Oxford just off the busy Cornmarket Street, the Covered Market is just what it says on the tin, an indoor market. Although this is also slightly misleading as calling it that doesn't really do it justice.
The market has alot of history associated with it & has been open since 1774. It was setup in order to clear up the streets of the various market stalls which existed, & it has been open ever since.
The place contains market stalls as well as small independent stores selling distinctive products different from what's on offer on the main shopping streets. As well as buying fruit, veg & meat from the various butchers, you can also find clothes, shoes & many other products for sale.
One of my favourite outlets is a smoothie place which makes delicious fresh fruit smoothies, very taste & great value.
I just love going for a wonder round this place & seeing what's around. There is always a great atmosphere & the place seems to attract alot of tourists. The covered market has traditionally been open from 9:00 - 5:30 on Mondays-Saturdays, but recently it is now also open on a Sunday.
When you're in Oxford, I recommend that you definetly pop in to this unique place & check it out!
The covered market is one of the most famous shopping areas of Oxford city and has been trading since the seventeen hundreds. It was originally an outside market, however, it was decided that the market looked too messy and that it needed to be housed. The individual commissioned to take on the design work was John Gwynn, the architect of the famous Magdalen Bridge. The building was designed and it still stands today with some alterations such as the high-raftered roofs which are the outcome of nineteenth century rebuilding. The market now mainly houses small shops and boutiques rather than market stalls.
* The shops*
I love to visit the covered market and browse around the stalls, small shops and boutiques. The atmosphere here is quintessentially English, and although very stylish it is still very down to earth. There is the usual hustle and bustle of a market place inside but it still feels like a million miles from the main shopping areas of the city.
There are four entrances to the market from different shopping points of the city which makes it very accessible wherever you are in Oxford.
There is a great range of shops and food establishments in the market. It is a place that I like to visit to buy fresh fish, fruit and vegetables, meat and bread. Although the prices are quite reasonable with some on the higher side, the choices and quality of the food products available here are exceptional.
*Fruit and vegetables*
There are two fruit and vegetable stalls within the market which stock a good variety of fresh produce. There are such things are exotic fruits to everyday vegetables to rare and expensive mushrooms. I find some prices to be reasonable and some to be quite expensive though the quality and choice keeps me shopping here.
The fish mongers have a huge variety of fresh fish from octopus to shell fish, to filleted fish to live lobsters! It is here that I purchase my fresh cod and salmon. The prices are reasonable, the food is good quality and very pleasant staff.
There are a number of butchers within the market that sell anything that you could possibly imagine! One of my favourite products from the butchery shops are the hand made sausages that come in a variety of shapes, sizes and flavours, I am still yet to try them all!
One of my favourite butcher's shops in the Covered market is David john butchery and pies. Here you can purchase great sausages and meats but my favourite section of the shop which is the home made pies, sausage rolls, quiche and far too much more to mention. The food is delightful and well worth a visit.
There is a small bakery shop which sells freshly bakes breads, pastries and cakes. There bread is lovely and so many nice treats to choose from.
*The cake shop*
The cake shop is probably the most famous cake maker in oxford and surrounding. There is a large display of their very extravagant and beautiful cakes to be seen v varying from happy birthday cakes to graduation cakes to wedding cakes. At present, there is a very exquisite three tier red and white Valentines Day cake adorned with red hearts and roses and looks fabulous! There are large windows all around he shop where you can stand and watch the workers baking and decorating their cakes. The prices are quite high, though they will make anything for you that you require and their products taste absolutely delicious!
There is a large range of things to buy from the market with shops that sell leather goods, a boot and shoe shop, a shop dedicated to teas and coffees, clothes, accessories, jeweler, children's clothes and accessories, gifts, engraving services and cobblers, chocolatiers, flower shops, delicatessens, custom made hats and framing services just to name a few. In particular, when my father in law comes over to England to visit us, he loves to visit the traditional barbers for a haircut and shave and praises the services very highly.
*Food & Drink establishments*
There is a wide variety of food & drink available for refreshment within the market.
Whether you choose to try the stalls which offer milkshakes or smoothies, whether you purchase a take away sandwich or sit down inside one of the coffee shops or baguette cafes, something will take your fancy. One of my personal favourites is a pie and mash café named 'the pie minister'. As it says on the packet, different kinds of pie and mash available here to eat in or take away and very very good food.
To summarise, this is a fantastic place to buy essentials, quirky items and treats plus essential foods within a beautifully designed building within a beautiful city.
I would certainly recommend visiting this shopping area if you ever visit Oxford and I am sure that it will leave a lasting impression.
The covered Market is a Victorian shopping area in the centre of Oxford. It can be accessed from the High St., Market St., or through the Golden Cross Arcade in Cornmarket St. It was originally established in the 16th century in order to remove the 'untidy mess and unsavoury stalls' from the Oxford streets. Originally it housed only butcher's shops but eventually had a variety of food stalls. The market has changed quite dramatically in recent years. It used to house almost only food shops, the majority supplying the kitchens of the University colleges but in more recent years many of the traditional shops have given way to a variety of different businesses, all independents I think, but many are still very food related. Whichever entrance you use the aroma of food, fresh or cooked or cooking greets you and it is impossible to leave without being tempted by something. I have a soft spot for the covered market because not only is it a lovely part of Oxford's history but I used to work in the market for a while and absorbed the atmosphere from the inside. I worked in a traditional butcher's right in the centre of the market, sadly it is no longer there, having become a victim of the high rents that the trendier shops can afford and a picture framer now occupies the tiny shop. There was friendly rivalry between the many butchers who worked there and a certain snobbery regarding which colleges were supplied. College chefs regularly visited to discuss menus and delivery to colleges was a bit of a treat as they usually offered a tasty morsel as a matter of course if you timed it right. The market also has, or did have its own language, backchat, often employed to discuss some attractive young lady passing though. 'Kool the namow!' was the cry that went out if a tasty bit of stuff was around. ~~~ Specialist Food Shops ~~~ The covered Market has a good variety of traditional shops including butchers, gre
engrocers, fishmongers, and a bakery. Several of the food shops have Oxford specialities including Oxford sausages, Oxford Lardy cake, Local rare breed meats and also the now world famous Oxford Blue cheese. Modern shoppers used to the sanitary conditions and shrink wrapped cuts of meat of the supermarkets might find the carcasses hanging outside the butcher's shops distasteful but regardless of how it is packaged this is how all meat begins. A couple of the Butchers are worthy of note: firstly there is R.R. Alden & Sons who have been there since 1793 and originally owned half the market. Just one shop remains now and they are one of the countries longest trading butchers. They specialise in rare-breed meats, including pork from Oxford Sandyback pigs, Longhorn beef from Christchurch meadows, and lamb from local Oxford Down sheep. They are also renowned sausage-makers and still follow the shops original recipes, including the famed Oxford Sausage, which they claim to have invented. Then there is M. Feller, Son and Daughter, that's a bit different isn?t it? Feller's have been very successful since they started in the market in 1979 they have adapted to public demand and have established themselves as a specialist organic butcher and have won the Organic Retailer of the Year award for meat. They also offer free delivery on orders over £15 which overcomes the problem of carrying meat around town. Feller's have a web site with information on their range of organic meats and price lists. See http://www.mfeller.co.uk/index.htm The Oxford Cheese company originally only supplied the University but now has what must be one of the best cheese shops in the UK. It specialises in farmhouse cheeses - mostly unpasteurised and sourced direct from the producer, wherever possible. The staff know their business inside out and can recommend cheeses suitable for any occasion and you get to taste it. At Christmas queues are so long they stretch
out into the road which says something about the superb quality. The Oxford cheese Company is home to the now world famous Oxford blue Cheese which is simply one of the best cheeses I have ever tasted. This is what their website says about it: Oxford Blue is made entirely by hand to our specifications in a leading Stilton dairy. The World Encyclopedia of Cheese describes Oxford Blue - 'When ripe, the cheese is a luscious creamy blue with distinct but not strong blue flavour. Aromatic and spicy, it has a hint of dark chocolate and white wine, with tarragon on the finish.' If you can't visit the shop Oxford Blue is available by mail order or from their rather basic web site at http://www.oxfordcheeseco.fooduk.com/default.htm Entering the Market from Market St you will be greeted by the gorgeous aroma of rich freshly ground coffee emanating from Cardew & Co. a specialist coffee shop. In addition to the fine coffees they also sell coffee making accessories and spares for traditional coffee making machines. Palms Delicatessen has also been around for as long as I remember and must have been Oxford's first deli. The tiny shop is crammed to overflowing with unusual foods from all over the world. Both fresh and store'cupboard food including marinades, pastas in an infinite variety of sizes, liqueurs and deliciously different stuff is available and is a must visit for me for the wide range of Turkish delight and choccies it stocks at Christmas. The Cake shop are cake decorators and you can watch the skilled cake decorators at work through the window producing gorgeous concoctions for weddings and other special occasions. These are obviously made to order but they also have a few cakes on sale along with everything you could possibly want to make and decorate your own cakes. Fasta Pasta is an Italian deli crammed with tempting goodies. They specialise in fresh pasta and sauces, a wonderful arr
ay of the best olives in town and mounds of wonderfully different freshly baked breads. This is a shop I just cannot resist on any visit to the market. They also do delicious sandwiches. The tempting smell of triple chocolate cookies baking will get you if you enter the market from High St. Ben?s cookies is only a tiny stall but it packs a powerful punch on the senses. Large, sticky and sinfully stuffed with wickedness the cookies are a dieter's nightmare - be warned. ~~~ Cafes and Take aways ~~~ There are quite a few sandwich bars and places to eat in the market and the place is small enough to quickly browse which you are most tempted by. Cafes include: The Alpha Bar is a recent addition to the Market.s take away and café scene. Specialising in vegetarian and vegan foods it serves very 'healthy' foods, salads and smoothies. It can cater for special dietry need such as gluten free and allergies. As part of the same company as the Oxford cheese company I?m sure it must be good. For those of the opposite tendency Brown's Café should suit. Brown's is the only surviving café of the original three in the Market. Here you can get mugs of tea to wash down a traditional greasy bacon butty, fry up or slices of toast. Sofi de France a French/Mediterranean café take away using nice fresh ingredients. Georgina's is a tiny café which is the only upstairs place in the market. Popular and trendy (hence a bit pricy) it serves wholesome food on wooden plates. Choose to spy on the cake makers opposite from here if you don?t want to be too blatant. ~~~ Other Specialist shops in the market ~~~ There is a traditional cobbler's shop which used to be really good but is now horribly expensive. There are two florists, two jewellers, a secondhand bookshop, a hat shop which sells exclusive and interesting hats, a card shop selling unusual and different cards, A South Amer
ican crafts shop and a couple of odds and ends gift shops. C. H Brown and son established in 1890 are rather a strange addition to the market shops. One wouldn't think there was a great deal of demand for saddles in the middle of Oxford but the shop is a showplace for the saddle fitting business which is out of the centre. The shop stocks other things such as leather bags and wallets wicker baskets, country clothing such as Barbour and country accessories. See http://www.saddledoctors.co.uk/ The Oxford Engraver not only cuts keys, engraves on gifts and trophies but also has some lovely pewter gifts including stunning Lord of the Rings goblets and glasses. Levett's Pet shop is another long standing resident of the market but gone are the halcyon days of my childhood when it would have been impossible to visit town without a visit to this pet shop. I would have been happy to stand all day with my nose pressed to the window admiring the adorable puppies or kittens if there were any but more often the bunnies and hamsters on display. ~~~ Fashion and Clothes ~~~ There are at least three shoe shops in the market selling original boots and shoes, one of which stocks a nice range of cowboy style boots and hats etc. There are a few casual clothes shops, jeans etc and several 'Nothing' shops. Two Foot Nothing sells trendy childrens clothes, Next to Nothing up market hippy inclined clothes and a excellent range of amusing T shirts and Nothing Design Knitwear sells original hand made jumpers. There is also a tiny accessories shop, which could have been the original Claires has nice cheap scarves and scunchies etc. ~~~ The Golden Cross Arcade ~~~ Finally, I just thought I'd mention the Golden Cross Arcade which is the entrance to the market from Cornmarket because it is easily overlooked, even by residents. The Golden Cross arcade is a small picturesque courtyard of shops and cafes l
ocated in what used to be a traditional coaching inn. The present buildings date back to the 15th century and were host to Shakespeare, who performed plays in the courtyard, and the Oxford martyrs were also held here prior to their execution. According to a sign on the wall, there was an inn here first in 1182 so it?s all quite ancient. Several old wall paintings have been discovered and some parts are on view in the Pizza Express, the only eating establishment in the arcade which also has a pleasant cafe area to chill in with nice sofas and music. The small shops here include smart Italian boutiques for men and women, Neals Yard health food shop and separate Neal?s Yard Remedies shop stocking herbs etc. Neal's Yard Remedies shops are staffed by trained personnel and stock an extensive range of complementary medicines, including homoeopathic remedies, essential oils and herbs. See http://www.nealsyardremedies.com/ Raphaels sells fine leather goods including some gorgeous bags. The Tea house stocks interesting and exotic teas and teapots. There are several other small shops in this area but these change ownership quite frequently so each visit may turn up another surprise. All in all I'd say that the Market is definitely worth a visit if you're in Oxford.
It is a sad consequence of the advance of large supermarkets that local markets have almost disappeared from life in England. True, there are some left, but they are rare. What a delight that one of these exceptions is in the centre of Oxford, a city whose centre is otherwise suprisingly poorly served by food shops- a very small and unattractive Sainsbury's and an even worse Asda that is more akin to Russian supermarket than anythig one might hope to find in 21st century Britain. The covered market is home to about two dozen shops, the vast majority of which sell food. There is also a cobbler, a rather meagerly stocked second-hand bookshop and some clothes shops that are unlikely to make anyone's mouth water. What will make your mouth water is the gorgeous food on offer. There are two superb greengrocers, always stacked full of fresh produce, an excellent fishmonger that sells all the usual favourites as well as more exotic things like octopus, and several butchers. Anyone who loves and cares about their food will relish the opportunity to by produce that is not sealed in plastic, to be able to ask the advice of a knowledgable assistant, and all this without the clinical coldness of a supermarket. True vegetarians may not like the deer and poultry hanging outside the butcher's shops, but those who like their meat will be at home here. I would unhestitatingly recommend the pie job, which makes the most delicious pies in the world, 'Fasta Pasta' which serves homemade pasta and gorgeous olives in a dozen different sauces, with pretty assistants to boot, and Ben's Cookies. There is nothing like biting into a cookie that is still warm, the chocalate still melted. Ummmm..
One of Oxford’s historic shopping areas located off the main street. A strange collection of little shops selling things such as clothes, shoes, jewellery, flowers, arts and craft goods etc. As well as sandwich shops, bakeries and unfortunately butchers. You cannot escape the nauseating smell of the meat that is hanging out side of the shops. It really ruins what could be quite a nice area to shop and puts people off of exploring the market. However, if you can mange to stomach the smell it is worth wandering around, you will be quite surprised by what you might find.