This month Creation Theatre is bringing Don Quixote, a story that has spanned over 400 years of history, to Oxford’s Covered Market, a place with a historical journey of its own. As vibrant a place now as it has always been, the market bustles with life by day. But what happens when the stores close at night? From the 23rd August it will come alive again with the magic of theatre, but little do our audiences know that when they step inside, they step into 250 years of history. Ahead of our opening night among the stalls, we bring you a short timeline of the Covered Market.
1774: The market opens as a result of the Oxford Mileways Act 1770. According to the Act, the market stalls which had previously crowded the streets “hath been found very inconvenient, by reason of the great Number of Coaches, Carts, and other Carriages, and Travellers passing through”. So for coach, cart and carriage, the bustling market was moved indoors and the Covered Market was born. This makes it nearly 250 years old, and it has been a vibrant hub for local traders ever since.
1830s: Visitors today can see elements of the market that date back to the 19th century at every point of the compass, including the original iron roof-supports in the north-west, and the moulded cornice and plaster of the market fronts in the south-west of central square. In the north, iron bars for meat-hanging still project from shop fronts today. These older details integrate with the new to give a real impression of being inside Oxford’s continuing story, as if small pieces of the past have gathered along the market’s journey into the future.
1900: After several re-building, re-roofing and re-developing projects, and with the help of many local architects, carpenters and foundries, the market has expanded to its current footprint, complete with four avenues.
2000: the Covered Market is listed as a Grade II building, meaning it is a place of special interest in Oxford, warranting every effort to preserve it.
But it isn’t just the building’s history which makes the Covered Market special; it is also its significance to the locals. Today it features over 60 traders, and taking a stroll through it you will find all kinds of local crafts in a true feast for the senses: fashion, flowers, coffee, food, fish, meat, jewellery, and arriving very soon to the mix, theatre! This brings us to the latest point on the market’s timeline…
2019: Creation Theatre perform our modern retelling of Don Quixote, adapted and directed by Jonathan Holloway. Two friends decide to kit out an ancient caravan and embark on the road trip of a lifetime.
Today, Oxford City Council is investing in the Covered Market’s future, so it may continue to thrive as a unique place for local traders and visitors alike.