Key Figures in the East Anglian Witch Craze, 1645-47


Charles I

  • Becomes King in 1625
  • Never meant to be King
  • Dissolved parliament in 1629 for 11 years
  • Attempted to arrest 5 leading MPs in 1642
  • Signalled start to civil war in August 1642
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Matthew Hopkins

  • Became concerned of witches in 1644, when kept awake by meeting at Manningtree
  • Volunteered to help Stearne
  • Moved across East Anglia investigating trials
  • Suggested he simply followed the money
  • Keen to find evidence of sexual activity with (the male) devil
  • Had no qualifications
  • Used title of Witchfinder General
  • Stayed to set legal proceedings in motion
  • From a good social standing
  • Wrote The Discovery of witches
  • Right place at right time
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John Stearne

  • Little known about him
  • Puritan
  • He first received a warrant to search suspected witches from the Manningtree magistrates
  • Debts owed to him were never called in, suggesting he knew implications of pursuing them
  • Published A Confirmation and Discovery of Witchcraft
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Sir Harbottle Grimston

  • Local Manningtree magistrate
  • Hopkins and Stearne presented their initial accusations to him
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Elizabeth Clark

  • First woman to be accused
  • Older woman with one leg
  • Long been suspected
  • Three teats found on her body
  • Watched for several nights
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Rebecca West

  • Named as a witch by Elizabeth Clark
  • She turned witness for the crown, gaining immunity from prosecution
  • Gained notoriety when published in anonymous pamphley, 'A true and exact relation of the severall informations, examinations and confessions of the late witches, arraigned and executed in the county of essex.'
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John Lowes

  • 80yr old Royaloist clergyman
  • Antagonised his parishoners at Brandeston
  • Spoke in defence of Ann Annson claiming she was as much of a witch as he was
  • Interpreted as a confession of guilt
  • Subjected to the swimming test by Hopkins 
  • After interrogation, he confessed
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John Gaule

  • Minister of Great Staughton in mid 1646
  • Aware parishoners were blaming witches for their misfortunes
  • Visited a detained suspect and this raised issues about the witchfinders
  • Published criticisms in 'Select Cases of Conscience touching witches and witchcrafts in 1646
  • He was conservative 
  • Preached against witchfinders
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