The Chained Oak of Oakmanor – An Eerie Tourist Attraction

The county of Staffordshire, in central UK, is home to a mysterious and rather eerie attraction – an old oak tree with branches shackled in heavy metal chains tied to a creepy local legend.

The story of the Chained Oak near the village of Alton is the most famous legend in Staffordshire. It is said that one day during the 1830’s, as the Earl of Shrewsbury was returning home to his home at Alton Towers estate a beggar woman stopped his carriage in the middle of the road and asked him if he could spare a coin or two. The earl cruelly dismissed her and urged the driver to move on, at which point the woman allegedly cursed him to lose a member of his family whenever a branch fell off a magnificent oak on the side of the road.


Photo: Gary Rogers/ (CC BY-SA 2.0)

That same night, a storm brewed up and one of the branches of the oak fell to the ground. As the woman had promised, a member of the Earl’s family died in mysterious conditions, which understandably scared the noble out of his wits. To prevent other tragedies, the next morning, he ordered his servants to wrap metal chains around the branches to stop any more from falling off.


There are various variations of this legend – according to one the beggar was a man, not a woman, and another claims that the Earl took that original branch to his estate where he conducted experiments to try and break the curse – but the main plot is always the same. It’s just a legend, but you would be surprised how many people believe in it.


“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,” one person commented on a BBC article about the oak. “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.”


“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,” someone else wrote.


In fact, most of the comments on this 2008 BBC article suggest that the legend of the Alton Old Oak holds some truth to it. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that no one has any other reasonable explanation for the large chains wrapped around the old tree. Some say that it may have been placed by locals to prevent the tree from collapsing on itself, but no one knows who or when they did it. Plus, rope would have been a much simpler solution, especially in centuries past, when chains were associated with restriction and imprisonment.


According to the Stoke Sentinel, the large chains were forged in the early 1800’s, around the same time that the tree’s legend is based. Then there are the stone steps leading up to the tree, and the clearing around it, which someone spent a great deal of time and effort creating. It’s such details that have some people believing that there is something of about the chained oak.


The eerie story of the Alton Old Oak served as the inspiration for the HEX ride at the nearby Alto Towers amusement park, which only attracted more attention to the mysterious tree. No one knows if the legend really is true, but a lot of people seem to thing there is something creepy about it.