Birthplace of the poet Coleridge, home of the world-famous 'Flaming Tar Barrels' and the site of one of England's most magnificent Parish Churches. Ottery St Mary, steeped in history over a thousand years and at the heart of the beauty of glorious East Devon.
Once the district’s largest town Ottery has a maze of historic roads and footpaths formed when it was the focal point of commerce and industry in the area. It retains its links with that trade as home to an eclectic variety of shops and businesses that would grace any settlement in the land. Links formed over recent years with Germany, France and Japan have ensured that Ottregians have an international outlook whilst they are famous for the welcome accorded to those who visit the town.
Footprints of history have left many landmarks both in the town and in the surrounding countryside. The Church of St Mary, once a treasured possession of the Abbey of Rouen in France, the arrival of Cromwell and Fairfax during their campaigns in the Civil War and the influence of the Coleridge family both in Poetry and the Law are indications of the importance of the town. The inclusion of Ottery in the works of Thackery as ‘Clavering’ and more recently as 'Ottery St Catchpole' in Harry Potter; plus its use as the background in filmed stories by Rosamunde Pilcher provides a clear indication of its world-wide significance in Literature through the ages. Another famous resident in later years was Sir Ernest Satow, doyen of British influence in Diplomatic Service with Japan - his grave is regularly visited by citizens of Japan where a Museum in Yokohama is dedicated to his memory.
The Parish Church of St Mary is modelled upon the cathedral in Exeter and has numerous features each unique in itself - it has been identified as one of the twenty finest in England and attracts many visitors, not only for its structure but also for the wide variety of concerts and other performances held within. A number of other churches within the town are worthy of note - particularly the United Reform Church which is of great historical interest and dates from the 17th Century. Grand country houses at Cadhay, Escot and be visited whilst the family home of the Coleridges, The Chanters House, and beautiful Knightstone Manor can be seen from nearby viewpoints.
The ceremony of the 'Flaming Tar Barrels' takes place each year on November 5th has brought fame and a stream of visitors to the town. These barrels, coated internally with tar and ignited, are run through the streets to the amazement of all who attend - a monster bonfire and other attractions also take place on the night. During the year many other events take place - Pixie Day in midsummer is a riot of fun for the children (of all ages up to ninety), a Carnival Procession in the Autumn and Late Night Christmas Shopping are for all to enjoy.
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