Matthew Hopkins

Manningtree is known as the home of the Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins, who in the 17th century was responsible for the deaths of so many unfortunate women in this part of the country. Unfortunately very little evidence of Matthew Hopkins exists apart from his own book The Discovery of Witches: an Answer to severall Queries, lately Delivered to the Judges of Assize for the County of Norfolk, and now published by Matthew Hopkins, Witchfinder, for The Benefit of the whole Kingdom.  Published as a sort of last resort to allay criticism of his methods, this book provides evidence of how he worked. ‘The Discoverer never travelled far for it, but in March 1644, he had some seven or eight of that horrible sect of Witches living in the Towne where he lived, a Towne in Essex, called Manningtree, with divers other adjacent Witches of other townes, who every six weeks in the night (being always a Friday night), had their meeting close by his house, and had severall solemne sacrifices there offered to the Devill. One of which this discoverer heard speaking to her Imps one night, and bid them goe to another Witch, who was thereupon apprehended, and searched by women who had for many yeares knowne the Devill’s marks, and found to have three teats about her, which honest women have not…’.

It has been written that he was the son of James Hopkins, minister for Great Wenham in Suffolk, and was born around 1621. Some say he was in the legal profession, and worked in Ipswich. He was about 24 when his witch hunting began in 1645, searching out so-called witches all over East Anglia. He had 68 people put to death in Bury St Edmunds alone, and 19 hanged at Chelmsford in a single day. Among those hanged at Chelmsford in 1645 were Elizabeth Clarke and Elizabeth Gooding from Manningtree and Anne Leache from Mistley. In the same year Helen Clark, Anne West, Anne Cooper, and Marian Hocket were executed at Manningtree. He was well paid for his work: Aldeburgh in Suffolk paid him £6 for clearing the town of witches, Kings Lyn in Norfolk gave him £15 and Stowmarket in Suffolk £23.

Hopkins is said to have carried on some of his ghastly business at the White Hart, and it is also said that people were killed on the green in South Street, as well as drowned from the Hopping Bridge along The Walls. There is also a story that he died young and was buried in the old churchyard at Mistley Heath, but there is little evidence to support most of these stories. There is, however, a record of his death dated August 1647, in the Mistley parish register, now to be found in the Essex Record Office branch at Colchester, which would suggest that he is indeed buried in the old Mistley churchyard.

All this took place during a period when the country was an unstable situation.  Hopkins came to prominence quickly, but after only a year his methods were questioned, and some say he was denounced as sorcerer and hanged, like so many of his victims.  Whatever we do and do not know about him, Hopkins has gone down in history as the Witchfinder General, and he was from Manningtree – he said so himself.

In the 1640’s Manningtree gained a sinister reputation when Matthew Hopkins, better known as the notorious “Witchfinder General”, moved here. He famously began his witch hunts where the accused (mostly women) were tortured and put to death. This was a profitable enterprise for him as he was paid well for his services and he had vast numbers of people hanged (87 in one day alone). He died young and the cause of his own death is unknown but some say he was also hanged. Records show that he was buried in a churchyard in Mistley.


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Local victims AKA Witches

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Another article  of interest

Mathew Hopkins  can only be described as a cruel opportunist. Capitalising on the chaos  of the English Civil Wars and the increasing accusations of the opposing armies using witchcraft to further their cause. His father had moved into the area as the local rector bring his family with him. The young son started his reign in the area, upto 23 local women and men were singled out and after lengthy and painful ‘integration’ most were hung as witches either at Manningtree, the county town at Chelmsford or died in prison at Colchester.

 There is currently a plan to erect a memorial the the poor victim near to their home town.  {Link }