Home Your Community Community Events Tar Barrels (5th Nov 2024)

Tar Barrels (5th Nov 2024)

Tar Barrels is an annual event in the town held on 5th November each year unless its a Sunday.

Barrel Rollers (as they are known) run with lit barrels filled with tar on their backs to the cheering of the crowd. To be a Barrel Roller you have to be born in Ottery or own a business.

The tradition is thought to have originated in the 17th century, and is believed to be a way of celebrating the defeat of the Gunpowder Plotters, but may have pagan routes too. There is a smaller barrel for children and often three generations of “Ottregians” are running with the barrels on the same night.

Barrels are carried throughout the town with the rollers and the crowd moving between pubs and sites of old pubs. The evening finishes in the town square with the largest barrel known as the Midnight Barrel.

It is a very popular event, and attracts up to 15,000 visitors from all over the world. The roads are closed from about 4pm but there are buses and coaches laid on to bring people into the town and take them back afterwards. It is a unique and exciting event that is a great way to celebrate Bonfire Night.

Fundraising takes place throughout the year and merchandising is available locally or via mail order from this site.

18 April 2023
Last Updated
22 May 2024