Thousands watch Ottery St Mary's flaming tar barrels

image captionThe event begins with the children's roll which involves passing a flaming barrel from shoulder to shoulder

Thousands of people have watched the spectacle of a centuries-old tradition involving flaming tar barrels.

The event in Ottery St Mary, Devon, involves men, women and children "barrel rollers" running with burning barrels on their shoulders.

The cost of insurance for the night is estimated at more than £20,000.

"There's been a few burns with barrel rollers, but that's part and parcel of what they sign up to," organiser Andy Wade said.

The exact origins are unknown, but the practice is thought to have started in the early 17th Century after the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

image sourceGetty Images
image captionNormal clothes are worn, but hands are protected with gloves made from folded hessian sacks

During the various "rolls", the barrels are passed from person to person, with rollers' hands protected by folded hessian sacks.

Mike Down, who has been taking part for nearly 30 years, plays down the risks involved and says it is important to continue the tradition.

"It's fantastic - one of the best feelings in the world and the safest place is underneath the barrel," he said.

"It's unique because we're the only place in the world that does it in this format by carrying the barrels on our shoulders.

"All three of my children roll, my wife rolls and in the future I want my granddaughter to roll."

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