A Walk in Manningtree and Mistley

A walk through the small river side towns of Manningtree and Mistley on the Essex/Suffolk borders. A chance to visit some of the locations that feature in the story of Matthew Hopkins' "The Witchfinder General".

Arrival

Arrive at Manningtree Train Station from either Ipswich, Colchester or London, or park at the free car park at the Co-op supermarket in Riverside Avenue.

Manningtree and Mistley are well known for their connections to the notorious Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins. Hopkins is famous for his persecution of women and accusations of witchcraft throughout East Anglia between 1645 and 1647.

On this walk you will discover places connected to Hopkins as well as other sites of historic interest.

 

Morning

Start your walk along the High Street going past the White Hart pub, where Matthew Hopkins is thought to have interrogated women accused of witchcraft.

Along the High Street you will see on the Market Cross building a sculpture of the Manningtree Ox, mentioned by William Shakespeare in his play Henry IV Part 2.

Opposite the Market Cross is South Street. Walk up here to The Green. A quiet attractive area now, this is thought to be where Hopkins hung three of the Manningtree women that he had accused of witchcraft. On The Green is the Red Lion pub, reputed to be the oldest pub in Manningtree. Hopkins and his assistants may well have visited the pub whilst they were in the town.

Walk back to the High Street, turn right and continue along the road. The High Street has an attractive range of buildings, many with Georgian fronts. However behind the Georgian fronts are earlier timber-framed buildings. There are stories that many of the buildings are linked by tunnels, created by smugglers in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Follow the road round and you will come across a wonderful view of the tidal River Stour. The Stour is thought by many to be one of the most attractive rivers in England.

You are now at The Walls, a promenade along the side of the river. Here there is an opportunity to do some bird spotting for the many sea birds that settle on the river. At this point the Stour is the border between Essex and Suffolk and on a clear day you can see along the river to the port of Felixstowe. There is a small beach to walk on at the start of The Walls if you wish to.

Walk along The Walls, where there are often ice-cream and coffee sellers parked. Be careful of the swans which live in the river along here, they look amazing, but aren't very friendly!

You will come to the Hopping Bridge. The pond on the right is where Hopkins is meant to have "swum" some of his victims. If they floated they were guilty of being witches, if they sank they were innocent. So they couldn't really win.

After the Hopping Bridge you will come to the Mistley Towers. These are all that remain of the Georgian church built by Robert Adam. They are now in the care of English Heritage.

You have now reached Mistley. On the left is the Mistley Swan in it's pond, all that is left of the grandious plans to turn Mistley in to a salt water spa to rival Brighton in the 18th century. Behind the Mistley Swan are a range of buildings known as the Mistley Quay Workshops. The workshops are home to a number of craft studios and a restaurant with fascinating views of the working port of Mistley.

In Mistley is the Mistley Thorn hotel. The hotel was built in 1723, but is on the sight of the original Mistley Thorn which Matthew Hopkins is thought to have bought and lived in when he was acting as the Witchfinder General.

Down the side of the Thorn is an un-made path which leads to an area also known as The Green. This area is fronted by an attractive row of terraced cottages. Look out for the bylaws as you walk up the path which inform you that you can't hang your washing out on The Green to dry.

The walk ends at this point, and you can retrace your steps back to the railway station or your car. Or you can follow the footpath across The Green and around the back of St. Mary and St Michael's Church. This will take you out onto the B1352 road and then back to The Walls for your return walk.

Copyright Wellcome Images

Lunch

There are number of places in Manningtree and Mistley where you can stop for lunch. These include The Mistley Thorn, the Mistley Quay Cafe, the Village Deli on Manningtree High Street, and a number of pubs. There is also a Fish and Chip shop on Manningtree High Street, so you could buy fish and chips and eat them whilst sitting at The Walls admiring the view. At different times of the year there are ice cream vans and coffee vendors pakred along The Walls

Afternoon

After your morning visit to Manningtree and Mistley you could travel on to Colchester to visit Colchester Castle Museum. Here, not only can you discover the story of Colchester during the Roman period, you can also find out about the Siege of Colchester which took place in 1648, just a year after Matthew Hopkins died in 1647.
Whilst in ther castle you can visit the atmospheric prisons, where many of the Witchfinders victims were imprisoned before being taken to Chelmsford for trial.
You may like to finish the day off with afternoon tea at one of Colchester's many tearooms and restaurants.
Colchester Castle