Selly Oak is named after the oak tree that once stood on these crossroads - and its folklore lives on. One unlikely yet deliciously magical tale asserts that a witch named Sally was buried at the site with an oak stake through her heart that later grew into the tree. In another version of the story, the witch was hanged from a branch there. Her name is said to have evolved from Sally to Selly over time, and Sally’s Oak evolved to Selly Oak! A less exciting tale gives John Rodway responsibility for the infamous tree. In 1829, he enclosed the rural land that was Selly Oak and claimed to have planted the tree there. Rodway’s claim was also proved false. When the tree was felled, it was discovered that it dated back to the 1700s, much earlier than Rodway’s enclosure of land, reigniting the mystery behind the oak tree.
The tree witnessed the beginning of Selly Oak’s industrialisation as it was absorbed into Birmingham, and eventually it found itself outside Eliza Lilley’s much-loved postcard publisher and confectioner shop. Although no witchly spirit was said to have escaped when it was eventually cut down, the felling was met with sadness and the stump was placed in Selly Oak Park to remember the tree by. You can see the plaque in the park today! In 2000, there was a new oak planted on Bristol Road but, as far as records show, no witches were harmed in the planting of this one either!