Ottery St Mary: Ron’s home town

You may remember that Ron’s home town is reffered to in the books as Ottery St Catchpole. This is almost certainly based on the real life Devon town of Ottery St Mary, which is near Exeter where J K Rowling went to university. Ottery means on the river and catchpole is an old surname that has something to do with either controlling animals or tax collection. It is also close to the village of Chudleigh which in the books is Chudley, home of Ron’s Quidditch team the Chudley Cannons. Another Devon village that shows up in the books is Budleigh Salterton which become Bugleigh Babberton, temporary home to Professor Slughorn.

Anyway the reason why Ottery St Mary is of interest is of interest at this particular time of year is because of their curious bonfire night tradition. Tar barrels. There’s a picture of it up there. Men run through the extremely crowded streets with burning tar barrels. It’s part of a tradition from the 17th century and might have started as a way of warding off evil spirits, or perhaps witches. So if you’re looking for a fun Harry Potter themed bonfire night this is the place to go.

Another cute tradition is Pixie Day in June. The day commemorates pixies being banished from the town to local caves known as the ‘Pixie’s Parlour’. Apparently a bunch of Pixies tried to direct a bunch of Monks carrying bells over a cliff, because if the bells were installed in Ottary church it would banish the pixies (Perhaps the bells were charmed by an annoyed wizard). However they failed and now they’re stuck in Pixies Parlour on the River Otter. So go there and think of Lockhart.

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