From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Ottery St Mary

50° 45′ 7.2″ N 3° 16′ 44.4″ W
Pre 1086

  • History
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Ottery St Mary, also known as Ottery, is located on the River Otter, between Honiton and Sidford, Devon.

The town is first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it appears as 'Otri' and 'Otrei'. 'Oteri Sancte Marie' is first mentioned in 1242. The town takes its name from the River Otter on which it stands, the river taking its name from the animal. The 'St Mary' element refers to the fact that the town belonged to the church of St Mary in Rouen in 1086.

Archaeological excavations in 2014, in advance of a housing development at Island Farm, uncovered a medieval longhouse dating to AD.1250–1350.

Ottery's notable buildings include the Tumbling Weir and St Mary's church. It comprises of several independent shops, mainly in Mill Street, Silver Street and Yonder Street. An area known as 'The Square', is the heart of Ottery St Mary. There are pubs, restaurants, and coffee and tea rooms.

The town stages events around Guy Fawkes Night, when, in a tradition dating from the 17th century, barrels soaked in tar are set alight and carried aloft through parts of the town by residents. Only those born in the town, or who have lived there for most of their lives, may carry a barrel. Generations of the same family have been known to compete across the years and it is thought that the event may have originated as a means of warding off evil spirits, similar to other British fire festivals, around the time of Halloween.

In 2009, a barrel was sabotaged by a visitor who threw an aerosol can into it. The can exploded in the heat and 12 spectators required treatment for burns.