Tar Barrels, Ottery St Mary, Devon
We’ll grant you, we have some peculiar traditions in our neck of the woods but this has to be one of the most bizarre. Every year on November 5th, people run through the streets of Ottery St Mary in Devon carrying full size burning tar barrels on their backs. Why, you ask; why? Well no one really knows for sure; it’s been conjectured that it may stem from the fumigation of cottages during the plague or that it was to warn of the approach of the Spanish Armada, but more likely, it has its roots entwined with the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
Tar Barrels has become increasingly popular in recent years with people coming from far and wide to see these high jinks; as a result the streets get very crowded and it’s hard to avoid being close to the flames and burning tar barrels, so it’s not ideal for small children and dogs, but generally the atmosphere is alive and exciting and somehow it feels exhilarating just being there.
Of course there are strict health & safety regulations these days, especially for events like this, so it’s all marshalled as it should be. The whole thing really is quite a spectacle; you’ll go home with the smell of smoke on your clothes and ash on your shoes but won’t you have a story to tell your friends; “We went to this crazy night in a little town in Devon, where people run through the streets with blazing tar barrels on their backs…”
5th November 2019 www.tarbarrels.co.uk All information correct at the time of