The Chained Oak
There seems to be a strange merging of reality and myth that can be found at Alton Towers, one of Englands leading Theme parks. In a woodland adjoining the park which used to belong to Alton Towers can be found a very ancient oak tree which is draped in chains and has a very strange tale attached to it.
In the Theme park can be found a ride called Hex which is based on the story surrounding this oak tree. A track can be found in the woodland that was used by the Earl of Shrewsbury who used to own Alton Towers, he used the track which was known as the Barbary Gutter to reach St Giles church which passes the cursed oak tree which he had chained up in 1830.
The Barbary Gutter
The legend is as follows, the Earl of Shrewsbury was returning home one Autumn night in 1821 when an old woman appeared in front of the coach and horses that the Earl was travelling in.The coach was forced to stop as the old woman was blocking the road, she then proceeded to beg for a coin, the Earl cruelly rejected her pleas and in return she placed a curse upon him.
It is assumed that she must have stopped him on the Barbary Gutter, for she said, “For every branch on the old oak tree here that falls, a member of the Earls family will die”. The Earl thought no more about this and carried on his way. That very night there was a terrible storm and a single branch from the oak tree broke and fell to the ground, that same night one of the Earls family mysteriously died.
Because of what had happened the Earl ordered his servants to chain up all the remaining branches on the oak tree, he did this in case the curse was true and other members of his family might fall victim to the old womans curse.
Another version of the story is that the Earls son was out riding one day, and when he approached the oak tree on the Barbary Gutter, he noticed an old woman standing beneath it, as he passed the spot where the old woman was standing a branch broke off the oak tree and killed him.
There is an account of a riding accident from around this time so there may be more truth to this account. It is however thought that the curse part of the story still holds true as the Earl still ends up having the branches of the tree chained up.