Ottery St Mary Tar Barrels

On November the 5th (or November the 4th if the 5th happens to fall on a Sunday), the good citizens of Ottery St Mary, having little interest in a certain failed coup d'état of 1605, organise Tar Barrels Night. On this occasion, people haul flaming tar barrels onto their backs and run around the crowded streets. The custom is thought to have originated in the 17th Century, the reasons for it being long forgotten.

If you intend to participate in the celebrations (passive watching is not an option if you are on the streets, you have to be prepared to get out of the way), note that the late night activities are unsuitable for small children. Children's Tar Barrels commences at about 16:00 and is suitable for small children provided that they are carried or placed somewhere out of the shifting crowds.

A general philosophical statement from the Organisers.

Photographs © Dave Knight 2000 - 2002

Tar Barrels website: www.tarbarrels.co.uk .
Ottery Tourist Information: www.otterytourism.org.uk (see: "Events").
Another tradition involving tar barrels is that of the new year celebration of Allendale in Northumberland, as celebrated by the Unthanks in their song 'Tar Barrel in Dale'.