4 November 2020
Welcoming Ross-on-Wye’s Market House evolution as a community hub

There is very little good news in this pandemic. But one great thing has been the brilliant and creative way in which the Market House has evolved as a community hub.

The Market House has always been the iconic part of Ross-on-Wye, and a key part of the town's history. Its lineage is enough to make you gasp.

Though the current building was constructed in the early 1650s--just after the execution of King Charles I, when the Roundheads controlled the country, the right to hold a market was granted to Ross in the 12th century, half a millennium earlier!

But the Market House has always been a meeting place as well. It is the natural home for the Christmas lights, and has been the focal point of innumerable May Fayres over the years. People sing in its cloisters and play the Town Band--I have done both myself, and it is always a joy.

Yet the Market House has never been more needed than in this pandemic year, when it has been transformed into a new kind of outdoor meeting place for everyone to enjoy.

Crowds of tourists flocked to Ross over the summer in their COVID-19 secure bubbles to enjoy the glory of the Wye Valley, and on non-market days the 350-year-old Market House became a safe space for residents and tourists alike to convene, enjoy a cup of coffee, and appreciate the beautiful surroundings.

With a steward on hand to help, the environment was COVID-19 secure, with cleaning in between each use, a hand sanitising station, and track-and-trace details taken. Not only allowing residents and tourists to dine safely outside, it provided the perfect space for cyclists with bikes, larger families, and those with dogs.

This is a modern twist on using the Market House to encourage visitors and support the town’s unique and independent shops, whilst following COVID-19 secure guidelines and promoting the safety of all in the town. The feedback from both visitors and residents has been very positive, and overall it has been a really worthwhile initiative. I would congratulate everyone involved.

There are plans for it to return next year, perhaps starting earlier in the year and further incorporating local businesses and cafes and community groups. Amid the gloom, let's look forward to a future where Ross-on-Wye can really thrive, with the Market House at its centre.