Charlene Lowe Kemp
Most know Alton Towers in Staffordshire for its thrills as a theme park, but did u no that one of the Rides The Hex, is based on a nearby oak tree named the Chained Oak.
There is two stories surrounding the old oak, one is a fabricated story to tell the thrill seekers who visit the Alton Towers attraction and the other told by many local Alton Villagers.
The facts are that the tree does indeed exist and there is indeed chains attached, 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, but you wont find much more information from local historians or guide books regarding if the legend is in fact true, this kind of information would have to be based on your own opinion by talking with the locals themselves.
The story goes……
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 women (some accounts recall it is a 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, the son of the Earl 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’.
The Chained Oak, lying as it does in Barbary Gutter, did indeed once sit next to on an old carriage-way that once wound its way from Alton Abbey, later known as Alton Towers.
The 16th Earl, in particular, would have used this carriage-way to get to St Giles Church in Cheadle, to visit and attend mass at the now famous church. It is also very likely that it was indeed the Earl who would have ordered the chaining, as no other person would have had the authority or the resources to carry out such an operation. However, the order may have been for quite different reasons than the legend would have us believe.
Both the 16th Earl, as well as his predecessor, was responsible for the planting of thousands of trees on their estate lands around Alton. With age these trees often come under threat of collapse due to the burden of their own weight, and what is likely is that the Earl ordered these to be secured by chains to preserve them, as this tree in particular, was highly visible in its high position, just off the carriage-way, but id have to argue why only this tree? when there is many others, very similar, in the surrounding area with none!
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…. here’s the biggest question… Could the tree really be cursed?
The ride Hex is reported to be one of the most active areas. The ride is located in the mansions old armoury and picture gallery People that queue for the ride have often reported seeing children dressed in Victorian clothing as well as being hit by objects and stones.
In the main area of the Alton towers, the presence of a large man has been felt around the Music Room, often accompanied by footsteps. The footsteps have also been heard around the Banqueting Hall, along with the large dark outline of a person.
The most common paranormal occurrence is the sighting of a lady in a long dark dress strolling through the corridors of the house. When she’s seen you often smell a strong aroma of perfume. She apparently takes on a very lifelike appearance with one member of staff believing her to be a guest who was in the park after hours. She told her she wasn’t allowed in here and needed to leave, the woman did as she was asked, but slowly faded away much to the fright of the staff member.
Also nearby to Alton towers is Alton castle. People often confuse the two and assume they are the same place, they are not.
Since 1442, the castle was in the possession of the Earls of Shrewsbury, who from the beginning of the 19th-century made their home at nearby Alton Towers. By the mid-19th-Century the castle was mostly in ruins. John Talbot, 16th Earl of Shrewsbury, commissioned Catholic architect Augustus Pugin, who was already working for the Earl at Alton Towers, to construct a new gothic castle/country house on the site. Most of the 12th-century ruins were demolished to make way for the new building which was designed to look like a French or German medieval castle. The earl also commissioned Pugin to develop the surrounding area on castle hill.
The castle has once been a boarding school which closed and is 1996 it was established by the Archdiocese of Birmingham as a Catholic Youth Retreat Centre, to which it is to this day. So unfortunately you are in able to look around.
There are some reports of ghostly sightings at the castle, but these are not as documented as well as nearby Alton Towers, In one forum a gentle stated
I went to Alton Castle school which had a ghost called the Grey Lady. She was regularly seen by the pupils
So how to get to the chained Oak Tree
On my Visit the whole area has some kind of creepy mysterious energy to it, approaching the tree and while at the tree, it certainly does have a feel to it, whether that is something paranormal or simply me aware of the legend, ill leave you to decide and have a visit for yourselves……