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13 November 2014

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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire > Discover Staffordshire > Local Life > Odd Staffordshire > The legend of the Chained Oak

The legend of the Chained Oak

The legend of the Chained Oak

The Alton Towers’ attraction 'HEX The Legend of the Towers' is based on the story of the nearby Chained Oak. It is one of Staffordshire’s great legends.

For the purposes of the ride at Alton Towers, the original legend has actually been altered.

And, yes, the tree really does exist - but you won’t find much information about it in any local history book or guide.

The only way you'll find out about the true legend and locate the actual tree is by asking the locals of Alton village.

Ghostly story

The story goes something like this....

On an autumn night in 1821, The Earl of Shrewsbury was returning to his home, Alton Towers, when, mysteriously an old man appeared in the road. The coach stopped to find why he was there, and the man begged for the charity of a coin.

The Earl cruelly dismissed him, so the old man placed a curse on him. The old man croaked: "For every branch on the Old Oak Tree here that falls... a member of the Earl’s family will die."

The Earl dismissed him and carried on his way...But that night, a storm brewed up, and a single branch from the old oak tree broke and fell.

Later that very same night, a member of the Earl’s family suddenly, and mysteriously died.

The next day, the Earl ordered his servants to chain every branch together to prevent other branches from falling.
So... we have a 'chained oak'.

Fact or fiction?

True or false?
Well, even now the branches of the oak tree remain in chains. There's also a set of stone steps leading up to it and a clearing circles the tree. Mysterious indeed because someone must have spent a lot of time and resources on completing all this.

So... is the legend real? Did the Earl really order the oak chained up? Or did later generations chain it up in a spirit of fun and mischief?

Or.... and here's the big one... is the tree really cursed?

last updated: 23/12/2009 at 07:49
created: 28/07/2008

Have Your Say


witches can only be women i belife in it becouse i heard about it when i was i kid it did look creepy.can somebody dy when a branch fall off today

Darren Lea
seens i have been on the ride. And trust me. it takes alot to spook me on a ride. But the story got me going. So i dug up a few things about it. And im not 100% on it all yet. BUT. There are two versions of this story. The one Alton towers gives. And that the other the earls son gets hit by the branch the next day, whilst on a horse riding trip. He then died. Nobody for sure is ever going to find out the truth. And to be honest, if we did know. it would kill the legand. And Laura, i think your right. For Alton Towers to go through that much to made to legand bigger than it is, is a bit much. Carbon testing would tell how old the rust is on the chains themselfs. True or not true. Lets believe what we want to believe about it. In the end, you'll never really know.

i thinks its true because when you go it dosent feel right what so ever and tree is so old its rotting and the chains are rotting aswell.

I live near the tree, and wont go near it, seems spooky enough for me

been there seen it,it could be true and looks impressive

I believe that it is all true, because when I visited it this year, you could tell just by looking at the chains that they are nearly two hundred years old. Also, when you ride Hex, you may notice in the queue line inside, they reveal a 40 second video clip which was taken back in the early 19th century, to prove the earl really did chain it up.

sam lee
i agree with laur as this would just be pointless to just go to alton village and chain up a tree.but on the other hand i do believe in curses and the dark arts so the tree may well be cursed but are there any records of someone near that tree who died later mysteriously?

Apparently in April of this year one of the branches broke of the tree and of the descendants of the Earl of Shrewsbury confirmed that no one has died. At least for now!

when we went to alton towers they said it was an old woman not a old what is the real gender???????? tell me please.thank youyour sincerly shelly

I work at alton towers and read some of the literature by them about the legend and the tree, and i do believ that it was alot of effort to go through just to chain up an old oakk tree there are steps and a visible path leading up to and around the tree even if the tree was of some value it is still alot to go through just to preserve it. I think the legend is true and that the Hex ride complements the legend well!

i think this may be a curse, but the story that i heard was that once there was a witch,

kieran packer
it is all true me and my mate heard the story off my great granddad

We visited it in augusy 2006 and it gives an unsettling feeling even in daylight. Some of the chain, the tree has grown around. We visited again last week and i was sad to see that a large part has fallen and some hooligans have sprayed blue paint in a swastika sign on the tree. very sad :(

i live right by it, alton towers making the rifde HEX and bringing all this publicity to the tree has caused its downfall, with kids goin up there at night and mucking about, swinging off the branches-hence some of them falling off.

After reading the latest comments about the chained oak, I think the curse is still intact. When I went to see the tree last time, I still felt this strange, dark, unfriendly presence surrounding the tree like there is someone or something there watching in anger, something that doesn't want anyone visiting the tree. I don't know why but that presence is still there after the branches fell.Sure some of the big branches have fallen and many people think it was due to one of the chains rusting through, the tree being very old or the very strong winds that were blowing when the branches fell but the way I see it, I think its quite the opposite to any of the three. I believe it was due to the curse. If I recall, there was a movie being made about the chained oak aroung that time but it got scrapped due to continuity hence the fallen branches. The way I see it, I believe thats why the branches fell, to stop the movie being completed. This is my way of saying the curse is still alive. If there have been sightings at the oak tree as the latest comments have said than I must be right.I'm not saying believe me. I'm just saying what I believe about the chained oak. Believe what you want to believe. All I can say now is this. The next time you visit the oak tree, be very careful, be aware of the oak tree's surroundings and don't go alone.

Alexandra Longden
I lived in alton when i was but just a baby and mum told me the tree was chained even then way before they made the hex ride and there was a book about it too so i think it must be true

Jonathan Malton
I went on the hex ride and thought it was fantastic. when i came home, i did some reaserch and it is Probably true as there is a chained. As a good historian I think it is true, but more reaserch needs to be done in the towers and a test on the oak tree to see if it is really cursed

i live near alton towers and have been loads of times. ive also been on walks to the chained oak with my family. all the branches are still chained up. and the chains do look really old!

Look at it this way: We might not believe in the curse, but back then it would have been very believable. I think that although there isnt actually a curse, the Earl DID have the tree chained, and they DID believe there was a curse. I'd also like to see what they actually found when they opened the castle, maybe there really was a hidden experiments room...

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