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Hatherleigh Tar Barrels


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Hatherleigh, Devon, has a regular carnival and funfair which has grown out of an older village revel, but on the same day it has a spectacular tar-barrel custom. The night before the first Wednesday after 5 November, participants drag two sledges, each with three barrels on, to the top of the town, accompanied by supporters and the Hatherleigh Jazz Band in fancy dress. The barrels have already been prepared, with sufficient tar and other flammable materials to make a good blaze. At dawn on the Wednesday, one sledge is set alight and dragged at speed round the streets of the village. At 8.30 p.m., after the normal events of the day, the second sledge is similarly raced around the streets and finally on to a bonfire.

Shuel, 1985: 188–9;Sykes, 1977: 138–41.


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