John Stearne (witch-hunter)

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John Stearne (c. 1610–1670)[1] was an associate of self-styled "Witchfinder General" Matthew Hopkins, a witch-hunter active during the English Civil War.[2] Stearne was known at various times as the witch-hunter,[3][4] and "witch pricker".[5]

Raised in Long Melford, Suffolk, ref></ref> Stearne later became a land owner at Lawshall near Bury St Edmunds.[6] He met Hopkins, who was 10 years' his junior, in Manningtree and appointed him as his assistant; as a result of Stearne's accusations, a trial was held in Chelmsford in July 1645 for 29 people accused of witchcraft and sorcery.[7] Of these four had died in prison prior to the trial[7] and 15 or 16[8] were subsequently hanged. Nine who had been convicted of conjuring spirits were reprieved.[9]

Within a year of the death of Matthew Hopkins, John Stearne retired to his farm and wrote A Confirmation and Discovery of Witchcraft.



  1. ^ Davies, S.F (2007). The Discovery of Witches and Witchcraft: The Writings of the Witchfinders. Puckrel.
  2. ^ A detailed account of the duo's activities can be found in Malcolm Gaskill's Witchfinders: A Seventeenth Century English Tragedy (Harvard, 2005). The duo's activities were portrayed unreliably in the 1968 cult classic Witchfinder-General (U.S. title: The Conqueror Worm).
  3. ^ St Edmundsbury, Borough Council. "Reformation and Civil War 1539-1699". Retrieved 2007-12-15.
  4. ^ Notestein 1911: p166
  5. ^ Notestein 1911: p248
  6. ^ Gaskill 2005: p13
  7. ^ a b Gaskill 2005: p123
  8. ^ Notestein 1911: p173; 403
  9. ^ Gaskill 2005: p129


  • Gaskill, Malcolm (2005), Witchfinders –A Seventeenth Century English Tragedy, London: John Murray, ISBN 0-7195-6120-5
  • Notestein, Wallace (1911), A History of Witchcraft In England from 1558 to 1718, New York: American Historical Association 1911 (reissued 1965) New York Russell & Russell, ISBN 978-1169793521, OCLC 223043

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