Witch Hunting the Witch Hunter
At the weekend I embarked on a weekend adventure into East Anglia where Matthew Hopkins reigned terror over his home county. Staying in Norwich as a base, I spent the Saturday in Manningtree, where Hopkins lived and owned property. A good 40 minutes on the train from Norwich, the station was situated around 20 mins from the town. One of the things that dawned on me was our almost desolate the place was. In the middle of the countryside, it’s surrounded my beautiful scenery.
Twenty minutes later, I’d walked into the quaint little town. There was little there that pointed towards Matthew Hopkins there. No historical reference as though he’s not to be remembered. The Mistley Thorn Inn which stands now is a replacement building of the Inn of the same name that Hopkins had a share in and seems to the only reminder of their famous son. However, the visit allowed me to understand how easily it would have been for Hopkins and Stearne to do what they did. The town would have been somewhat smaller than it is not and the size would have been a great advantage. Paranoia was like dry kindling and one spark could consume and destroy one person’s life.
The mentality of town folk and those of the city are different as they are today. Anything unexplained was exemplified by the tightknit community. God forbid if you were different both physically or mentally because it was a fast-track way of getting to the gallows. So though I found very little of Hopkins in Manningtree, I did get a sense of the land and county that he travelled around.
The Norfolk and Essex countryside, is beautiful and vast and it’s not hard to imagine how that land would have been impacted with the Civil War. Soldiers from both camps marching and riding across the land trying to survive. I was definitely inspired by just being there and now feel able to give the scenes in the book much more depth and feeling.
So my journey with Hopkins continues and so does the book.