Ottery St Mary’s History and Heritage

As one of the oldest parish towns in Devon, Ottery St Mary is a fascinating place for history buffs to spend some time. The town has a number of historic houses, including a Tudor manor house and St Mary Parish Church, which is based on Exeter Cathedral and is over 700 years old.

The first mention of Ottery St Mary is in 963AD, when King Edgar granted part of the existing parish to one of his court advisors. It remained under his ownership until the whole parish, which included Ottery and other areas of East Devon, was granted to the Dean and Chapter of Rouen Cathedral in France by Edward the Confessor.


St Mary’s Parish Church

The Church was built in 1342 by the then Bishop of Exeter who created it as a Collegiate Church. It was modelled on Exeter Cathedral and worked through until the dissolution of the monasteries, when it came under ownership of the crown. Henry VIII established the four Governors of the Hereditaments and Goods, which gave the town the responsibility of maintaining the church building, something that continues to this day.

Inside the church, there is a minstrel gallery and a 14th century astronomical clock, both of which are well worth visiting.


Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Perhaps the most famous of Ottery’s exports is the poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Coleridge was the son of the parish’s vicar and was born in the old vicarage in 1772. Coleridge is most famous for founding the Romantic Movement in England, there are loads of ways to explore Coleridge’s life by following Ottery’s Blue Plaques which are dotted around the town and by visiting his statue.

There are several Blue Plaques to be discovered, why not find them all with this map.


Ottery Tar Barrels

Ottery St Mary is most famous for their Tar Barrels, this tradition is likely to have originated around the time of the gun powder plot, but no one is really sure how it came about. All we do know is that it continues to this day and that Ottery St Mary remains the only town in England to take part in the festivities.

Every year around bonfire night, residents carry full sized, lighted tar barrels through the streets as part of a fundraising procession towards a large bonfire.

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