The chained oak is an ancient oak tree situated in the Dimmingsdale woods between Alton Towers Resort and Alton village. Featured as the centrepiece of the story behind Hex – The Legend of the Towers, the legend has been around for over a hundred years.
It was in the winter of 1846, when a carriage was travelling through the area woods near to Alton Towers, Staffordshire. On it rode a local aristocrat, returning home from a grand banquet. Through the mist and driving rain a figure appeared in the road, the coach stopped! It was an old woman shrouded in rags, an involuntary shudder went through the Earls body.
“Spare a farthing for a beggar woman”
She pleaded with the Earl to spare her a farthing. But when the rich Earl mocked her request she placed a wicked curse on him and his family…
“For every branch of the old oak that falls, a member of your family will die!”
During freak weather conditions of the following night, a branch was struck off the tree and true to the Witches prophesy a member of the Earls family suddenly and mysteriously… DIED.
The Earl immediately ordered his guards to chain the tree up to prevent further misfortune. He dragged the fallen branch back to Alton Towers, where he conducted scientific experiments in an attempt to banish the evil curse. Now As Alton Towers uncover a secret vault the branch is found!
Variations of the story state that it was an old man who cursed the earl, not a woman, and that instead of a storm bringing down a branch, the Earl’s son was out riding the next day and, as he passed the old oak tree, the woman had been standing under a branch which fell on top of him, knocking him from his horse which ended his life. For the purposes of the attraction, the story has been altered somewhat to relate the legend of an old woman begging for money on a stormy night, and the penalty of not affording her any charity.
Since the photos were taken in 2006, a considerable proportion of the chained oak has collapsed. It is thought that one of the chains, having become integral to the tree’s structure, rusted through, resulting in the collapse of part of the lower side of the tree.
Discover more about Hex – The Legend of the Towers in our Resort Guide.