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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.
Oxford university library open for visitors
Address: Rose Lane / Oxford OX1 4AZ / Tel: 01865 286690
Address: University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, High Street, Oxford OX1 4BJ
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