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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ottery St. Mary

Ottery St Mary, south west of Honiton, is located on the banks of the River Otter in a pleasant valley.

The town is associated with the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, whose father was vicar at The Church of St Mary of Ottery in the late 18th century. Other literary connections include William Makepiece Thackeray, who occasionally stayed in the village and set his novel Pendennis here and the 19th century Japan scholar and statesman Sir Ernest Satow (1843-1929), who is buried in the northeast corner of the churchyard.

The Church of St Mary of Ottery is Ottery St Mary's main attraction. The church is situated on Cornhill overlooking the town below.

The church was purchased and re-built in the 1340s by Bishop Grandisson of Exeter, who modeled it after nearby Exeter Cathedral. The weathercock on one of the twin towers is said to be the oldest surviving in Europe. The ornate interior, restored in 1977, has fine fan-vaulting, some grotesque decoration and an ancient astronomical clock dating back to the 14th century.

The names of the streets: Amen Court, Jesus Street and Paternoster Row reflect the ecclesiatical heritage of the original medieval town. Nowadays, a number of elegant Georgian and Victorian buildings survive in the town, some of which are marked by blue plaques such as The Old Convent, previously a Marist Sisters school.

Ottery St Mary connects to Exeter, Honiton and Sidmouth by bus. Ottery St. Mary is a short drive north of the seaside village of Beer. The town's tourist office (Tel: 01404 813 964) is at 10b Broad Street.

November 5 sees the annual Ottery St Mary tar barreling, when the local pubs sponsor a tar-soaked wooden barrel, which is then set alight and carried through the streets by men, women and children.

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