Friday, September 03, 2010

Matthew Hopkins - Famous Men and Women of Suffolk No 3 in a Series

Way back in 2005 on this blog I ran a short series promoting the most famous men and women from Suffolk, England which is my home. I thought it was time to re visit this series starting with those famous men and women I originally added and then look to add more names. Though this has little to do with running I hope it will serve to broaden the knowledge of any interested readers in the people and the county where I run. After all it is Running in Suffolk.

No 1 in the series was John Constable, No 2 was Robert Bloomfield which you can find in earlier posts. No 3 was an evil man.

Matthew Hopkins the notorious Witch finder General was born in 1620 at Great Wenham in Suffolk. He was briefly a lawyer in Ipswich. Hopkins life was a short one as he died in 1647.

In 1644 Hopkins gave himself the title of Witch finder general . This was during the time of the English civil war when parliament over throwed Charles the 1st and puritanism was very dominant.

He was paid very well by Local magistrates , about £1 for each witch found. It is believed that Hopkins was responsible for the deaths of around 300 women. As the daily wage was around 2.5 pence he would have become considerably rich from his indictments.

Hopkins technique for drawing a confession included sleep deprivation and cutting an arm with a blunt knife and if she didn't bleed she was a witch. Another test was to tie the accused to a chair and then drop them in to a lake or river to see if they floated. If they floated they were a witch. If they sank and drowned they were innocent. One theory is that Hopkins himself was subjected to this treatment by angry locals in 1647 and hanged as a witch but it is more likely that he died of TB.

In 1645 the largest Witch trial in English history at the time took place at the Shire Hall Bury St Edmunds. Neighbours and self appointed searchers had dragged over 120 old women and a few men to Bury Jail.

One sad case was of a vicar John Lowes aged 80 from Brandeston, Suffolk who had preached for 50 years at his church. After undergoing days of sleep deprivation he eventually confessed to employing two imps to sink ships at sea, having a bad temper, and keeping a ginger cat called Tom. He was compelled to read his own burial service before they hanged him along with 15 others on the 27th August 1645

Anne Alderman, Mary Bacon, Henry Carre, Alice Denham, Thomas Everard, Mary Everard, Mary Fuller, Nicholas Hempstead, Anne Leech, Jane Linstead, Rebecca Morris, Mary Skipper, Mary Smith, Margery Sparham, Katherine Tooley.

Of course these people would have been entirely innocent and Hopkins basically acted on the fears and heightened tensions of this period in history to make a small fortune for himself.

Hopkins storey inspired one film in 1968  known as the Witch finder General in the UK and the US as Conqueror Worm.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, very interesting read Paul. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed thoroughly.


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