John Stearne (witch-hunter)

John Stearne (c. 1610–1670)[1] was an associate of self-styled "Witchfinder General" Matthew Hopkins, who was active during the English Civil War.[2] The duo's activities were portrayed unreliably in the 1968 cult classic Witchfinder-General (U.S. title: The Conqueror Worm). Stearne was known at various times as the witch-hunter,[3][4] and "witch pricker".[5]

Title page of Stearne's A Confirmation and Discovery of Witchcraft, published in 1648

Raised in Long Melford, Suffolk,[6] Stearne later became a land owner at Lawshall near Bury St Edmunds.[7] 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.[8] Of these, four had died in prison prior to the trial[8] and 15 or 16[9] were subsequently hanged. Nine who had been convicted of conjuring spirits were reprieved.[10]

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. ISBN 9780955635014.
  2. ^ A detailed account of the two men's activities can be found in Malcolm Gaskill's Witchfinders: A Seventeenth Century English Tragedy (Harvard, 2005).
  3. ^ St Edmundsbury, Borough Council. "Reformation and Civil War 1539-1699". Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  4. ^ Notestein 1911: p. 166
  5. ^ Notestein 1911: p. 248
  6. ^ Gaskill, Malcolm (October 2007). Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy. ISBN 9780674025424.
  7. ^ Gaskill 2005: p. 13
  8. ^ a b Gaskill 2005: p. 123
  9. ^ Notestein 1911: pp. 173, 403
  10. ^ Gaskill 2005: p. 129


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