Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

AUGUST 10th  

On this day in history in 1647, died Matthew Hopkins.

Hopkins was a witch-finder who wrote The Discovery of Witches and used professional means of interrogation, such as the ducking suspects under water to see if they drown. 

Hopkins was a lawyer, the son of a clergyman, who became interested in witchcraft when he overheard a group of women gossiping about their meetings with the Devil. Hopkins informed the local clergy and his evidence resulted in nineteen alleged witches being hanged, while another four died in prison awaiting trial.  

Encouraged by success, Hopkins toured the eastern parts of England persecuting witches, under the grandiose title of Witch-finder Generall, a designation he claimed was bestowed by Parliament, although no record exists to verify this. His methods included sleep deprivation and torture but one of his more sophisticated methods was ‘the swimming test’, by which the suspect was immersed in water and if she did not drown then it was certain that the water had rejected her, because she had renounced the water of baptism.  

Hopkins also used a device known as a ‘witch-pricker’, a small sharp instrument, which when judiciously applied to the suspect’s body, would reveal any part immune to pain, from which it would be evident that the Devil had sucked her blood.  

Hopkins demanded payment from communities for his services and augmented his income with the sale of witch-boxes, which contained the requisite elements to defend the possessor from the casting of spells.  

Hopkins died in 1647. A rumour abounded at the time that Hopkins had been entrapped by dissatisfied customers of witch-boxes, who had subjected him to his own swimming test, during which he sadly drowned.  Hopkins was buried at Maningtree church, Essex. [Grave and church no longer extant].

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