One of east Devon’s most popular events – the Tar Barrel Rolling in Ottery St Mary is back for 2021 after having to be cancelled due to the pandemic last year. 2020’s was one of the only events to be cancelled in this festival’s decades long history, so make sure to add the 5th November to your diaries and get yourself to Ottery St Mary for the celebrations!
The tradition of Tar Barrel Rolling around Bonfire Night has been going on for hundreds of years in Ottery St Mary, so long in fact that the exact origins of the event have been forgotten, though it is suspected that the festivities began after the gunpowder plot was foiled in 1605. There has always been a tradition of torchlight processions and burning barrels here in the West Country, but the town of Ottery was one of only a few towns and villages that began rolling lit barrels through the streets on 5th November. Somewhere along the line, it was decided that rolling the barrels wasn’t enough and so, the present tradition of carrying lighted tar barrels was born.
While the procession typically takes place on the Saturday before Bonfire Night, this year, the event will be held on Friday, 5th November. From 7pm, the barrels will begin with the event culminating in Ottery’s giant bonfire, which will once again take part at St Saviours Meadow. Visitors can expect to see a fire that stands at 35ft tall and 50 ft wide, so plenty of space for viewing the ceremonial burning of the Guy.
Tar Barrel rolling raises thousands of pounds for local charities and this year is set to be no different, so if you are in East Devon in early November, make sure to pay a visit to Ottery St Mary and join in the spectacle!