Salty Sam’s Fun Blog for Children

Number 402

Matthew Hopkins


Hello Everyone



My blog post this week is about one of the nastiest people in English history. 


His name was Matthew Hopkins – a man who wanted to become a lawyer, failed, moved to the town of Manningtree in East Anglia and found another way to enforce his own idea of justice on the local population.


Let me start at the beginning of the story…


During the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell and his army; it was called the New Model Army, declared war on the king to challenge the idea of the ‘Divine Right of Kings’ – that is to say that the King Charles l had a God-given right to have personal control over all his subjects. 


You probably remember me telling you about this in the blog post about Puritans that l wrote a few weeks ago.


The war was long and bloody, and during this time often neither side had strict control of the country.


The war lasted from 1642 to 1651.


People often took the law into their own hands in their neck of the woods during this unsettled time.


One such person was Matthew Hopkins.


He was a most infamous person in the most infamous period of witch trials in England.


(lnfamous is said like ‘infermous’ and mean famous for being bad, it doesn’t mean the opposite of famous.)


Witch burning had been rife on the continent for a while, and so intense and far-reaching, that there were some villages where so many innocent people has been executed that maybe only one woman was left living in them.


King Charles l had suppressed witch-hunting in England by insisting that a huge amount of strong evidence must be produced to prove someone was practising witchcraft before they could be accused of it.


But when civil war broke out in 1642, Charles began to lose his governance over the country.  The witch trials of East Anglia began in 1645 after Charles’ rule of law had somewhat disintegrated.


ln those days, people had a strong belief that people with supernatural powers could bring disease, crop failure and any kind of disaster to other people.


People then, just like people today, wanted to find people to blame for their own misfortune.  Nowadays, it is politicians and anyone else with power or authority, then it was black witches who worked with the Devil.


A frenzy of hysteria and suspicion of neighbours was triggered off by one incident that took place in the meeting rooms of the village of Manningtree in the county of Essex (northeast of London).


Travelling magistrates were presiding there that day.


One John Rivett, was worried about his wife who had come down with a mysterious illness that would not yield to any medicines given to her.


He was convinced that a hex had been put on her by an old woman called Elizabeth Clarke.  She lived alone, she was disabled, bad-tempered and not much-liked.


He was backed up by a local land-owner, John Stearne who produced eye witness accounts that Elizabeth had uttered curses at people and admitted that she associated with other witches.


Stearne was entrusted with a warrant to investigate the matter and any other similar occurrences that might arise by the magistrates.  He would be allowed to question people, but not use torture to get the answers he was looking for, because that would be against the law.


He was given, in effect, a licence to hunt witches.


What followed was to be the most brutal witch hunt known in English history. 


lt was in fact, just a good excuse to get rid of neighbours that weren’t much liked by the majority of people in the village.  lt was mob rule.


Orchestrating (organizing) this situation was a young man called Matthew Hopkins.  He had witnessed the meeting with the magistrates at Manningtree, the town where he lived, and following it, offered to help and support John Stearne.


Matthew Hopkins’ father was a strict Puritan preacher.  Puritanism was the faith that dominated East Anglia at the time.  This area held a lot of support for Cromwell’s army.


Hopkins was taught that to believe in Christ was not enough, his faith had to be publicly demonstrated through how he lived his life.


The rigid, narrow and clearly-set out beliefs of the Puritan faith led Hopkins to believe that it was his duty to God to rid the whole of his region of witches.


With huge religious zeal, he went on the rampage.


And he had plenty of help from others who were willing to be his supporters.


His first victim was Elizabeth Clarke who confessed after being tortured (by sleep deprivation for days) that she worked with other witches in a coven and named them. 


Using sleep deprivation as a torture was allowable by law at that time.


When you are not allowed to sleep, you feel mentally confused and physically very ill.  lt is a very horrible thing to do to anyone.


The people she named were all rounded up and tortured so as to extract confessions from them too. 


They were then taken to Colchester Castle where they were imprisoned in terrible conditions, shackled in irons, beaten and later hanged.  Some of the prisoners died in the terrible conditions even before they appeared in court. 


Fifteen ‘witches’ were hanged publically in Chelmsford. 


Matthew Hopkins gave himself the title of Witch Finder General and embarked on a new career that would earn him a fee for every witch he dispatched – a good incentive to find plenty of them.


But many innocent people were accused and convicted due to nothing more than malicious (spiteful) gossip.  ln just a few months, well over two hundred men and women were hunted down and executed.


Sometimes, sleep deprivation did not bring forward a confession; so Hopkins started to break the law and embarked on a practice called ‘swimming the witch’. 


This entailed binding people’s hands and feet together and throwing them in deep water. lf they drowned, they were considered to be innocent of witchcraft, but if they floated, their guilt was proved, and they were taken away to be hanged. 


(l know what you are thinking – once they were accused, these people were in a no-win situation, which is no kind of fair trial at all!)


This practice was thought to show proof of guilt or innocence because of the notion that the victims were floating because they were repelling the ‘water that had baptised them into Christianity’ once they decided to turn their backs on Christ and join forces with the Devil instead.


People were rounded up and offered to Hopkins for assessment all over East Anglia and parts of the Midlands. 


The high number of hangings that resulted from their trials was beginning to cost a lot of money, and extra taxes even had to be collected to pay for them all.


People were beginning to turn against Hopkins.


A Puritan preacher called John Gaule stood against him.  ln his sermons, he spoke against the reign of tyranny.  He also wrote a book explaining how innocent people were being targeted.  He wrote that they were being tortured and killed for money on the flimsiest of evidence.  Matthew Hopkins was doing a great wrong for his own ends.


This was a dangerous thing for Gaule to do; it put him at great risk.


But the book was brought to the attention of some Westminster (now in London) judges who happened to be visiting Norfolk.  They were told that Matthew Hopkins was a self-appointed law enforcer with no jurisdiction and was breaking the law by getting confessions by means of illegal torture.


The proper authorities were going to start investigating Hopkins’ activities and suddenly nobody in the area came forward to request his services anymore.


But before he could be tried in court for breaking the law, in August 1647, Hopkins suddenly died at his home in Manningtree.  lt is suspected that he died from the lung disease, tuberculosis.


There ended the life of one of the most notorious and feared men in all of English history.


But Hopkins had generated so much fear and hatred of witches it would continue long after his death, and it even spread beyond these shores.


The hanging of hundreds of people accused of being witches continued in the decades that followed.


And in New England, forty-five years after his death, people in the small town of Salem copied his methods and twenty ‘witches’ were executed there too.


A small groups of young girls known as ‘the afflicted’ claimed to be possessed by the Devil and accused others of being witches.  Consequently over 200 people were arrested in the years 1692 – 1693. 


Twenty of them were found to be guilty and hanged.


But you will be glad to know that in 1735, a law was passed to say that nobody should be accused of possessing supernatural powers.


And witch hunting came to a halt.


This will be good news for Emily who likes dressing up as a witch at Halloween!


Nowadays, of course, there are still people around who are like the people who helped Matthew Hopkins.


ln modern times, they are called bullies and lnternet trolls.


These people may be hurting or bored with their lives.


They are feeling inferior and insecure and can’t find anything better to do with their time except pick on other people.



lf you like my blog, please support it by telling all your friends and followers about it.


Thank you!


And see you again next Fun Friday!


Love and kisses



Salty Sam





Bill and Bob’s Joke of the Weekjokejoke


Bill:  Why are witches carbon neutral?


Bob:  l don’t know.  Why are witches carbon neutral?


Bill:  Because their vehicles clean up after themselves!



Salty Sam © Christina Sinclair 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of material from this blog without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited.

Links may be used to



Picture Gallery


Imps are minions of the Devil

They are low-ranking demons

who will take instructions from higher-ranking beings









This week, Bill and Bob’s wanted to tell you some of their Halloween Jokes.


If you go out on Monday night, be careful to keep safe, and don’t upset people who don’t want to join in your games.



What does a zombie have for breakfast?

Killer cereal


Where do spirits send their letters?

At the ghost office


Where do ghosts like to go on holiday?

Lake Erie


What do witches wear on their eyelashes?



And how do they fix their hair?

With scare spray


When do ghosts eat breakfast?

In the moaning


And how do ghosts like their coffee?

Dark with extra scream


What is the tallest bat-inhabited building in the world?

The Vampire State Building


Which of the fairy folk are the messiest eaters?

The ones that are goblin


What was the ghost children’s favourite game?

Hide and shriek


Why do skeletons hate winter?

Because the cold goes right through them


What does a werewolf become in winter?

A chilly dog


How do you make a skeleton laugh?

Tickle his funny bone


What were the names of the werewolf’s brothers?

Whatwolf and Whenwolf


Why did the skeleton go to the dance alone?

Because he could find no body to go with


Why was the skeleton scared to cross the road?

Because he had no guts


What do you call a group of witches that live together?

Broom mates


Why did the ghost have a number one on his back?

Because he was playing football and he was ghoulie


Why did the vampire dump her boyfriend?

Because he was a pain in the neck


Why did the teacher have trouble with the twin witches in her class?

Because she couldn’t tell which witch was which


Why could the little ghost never trick his parents?

Because they could always see right through him


What do you call a witch that has fallen in some stinging nettles?

An itchy witchy


Why don’t witches fly on vacuum cleaners?

Because you have to plug them in to get them to work and the cord doesn’t reach very far



And one more message…








Quick Quiz


Can you name these people, who can be found in a court of law?


  1. S _ l _ c _ t _ r
  2. D _ f _ n _ a _ t
  3. L _ w _ e _
  4. B _ r _ I _ t _ r
  5. J _ d _ e
  6. M _ g _ s _ r _ t _
  7. C _ u _ t u _ h _ r






lt’s the Weekend!




This is a cute, little snake that can be taken on a trip. He is very portable.



Using 4mm knitting needles and purple dk yarn cast on 3 stitches

Knit 2 rows of stocking stitch


Increase 1 stitch at the beginning of the next 8 rows (11sts)


Knit 60 rows of stocking stitch (70 rows altogether)

Don’t cast off and cut your yarn off with about 20cm left to use later



  1. Embroider a pattern using Swiss darning onto the surface of one piece – you can make a diamond pattern or a zigzag using bright colours.
  2. Add two eyes
  3. Leave and end of yarn hanging out of the mouth to make a tongue
  4. Sew the side seams up from the tail using over-sew stitching and right sides together
  5. Turn the snake the right way out
  6. Stuff it
  7. Pull the mouth in and secure all ends of yarn



Please note that the material on this blog is for personal use and for use in classrooms only.

It is a copyright infringement and, therefore, illegal under international law to sell items made with these patterns.

Use of the toys and projects is at your own risk.

©Christina Sinclair Designs 2015sand



Quick Quiz Answers


  1. Solicitor – sets up an office in somewhere like a high street that people can visit for advice
  2. Defendant – a person accused of committing a crime
  3. Lawyer
  4. Barrister – wears a wig and has permission to talk to a judge in court
  5. Judge
  6. Magistrate – below a judge
  7. Court usher – wears a black gown and helps visitors, witnesses and jury members to find their way around the law courts building


A gavel



Embroidery Stitches

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