From the album Full Circle
This song is set in Suffolk where my ancestors originally came from before they moved Lancashire via Warwickshire more than 200 years ago.
On May 18 1827 Maria Marten, 26 year old daughter of mole catcher Thomas Marten, left her father's cottage at Polstead in Suffolk for the last time. She said a tearful farewell to her young son, her sister and her stepmother, then set out to meet William Corder, her 24 year old lover, in the Red Barn. At his request she went dressed as a man. Her family never saw or heard from her again.
In April the following year Thomas Marten was prompted by his wife to search the Red Barn. He discovered a shallow grave which contained a body, recognisable from the clothing as that of Maria. Shortly afterwards, William Corder was arrested in London. He was taken to Polstead for the inquest and sent to Bury St Edmunds to stand trial.
Corder's trial took place on Thursday 7 and Friday 8 of August 1828. Throughout the trial he claimed his innocence. Nevertheless he was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death by hanging. His body was to be anatomised (dissected).
Shortly before the sentence was carried out, Corder confessed. He was executed on the Monday August 11, at the county gaol in Bury St Edmunds. Despite heavy rain thousands of spectators attended. The body was taken to the Shire Hall, where it was cut open and laid out on show. Thousands of people filed past to view it before it was removed for dissection at the West Suffolk Hospital. The skeleton was kept, and the scalp and part of the skin were preserved. The surgeon, George Creed, later had an account of the trial bound in leather made from Corder's skin.
After the widespread press coverage of the murder thousands of visitors made a pilgrimage to the Red Barn - Curtis estimated over 200,000 during the summer of 1828 alone. Many shed a tear for Maria. Many more took pieces of the barn as souvenirs and removed the boards to a height of five or six feet.
Oh my name is William Corder to you I do declare
I courted Maria Martin most beautiful and fair.
I promised I would marry her upon a certain day
Instead of that I was resolved to take her life away.
If you’ll meet me in the Red Barn as sure as I have life
I will take you off to Ipswich Town and there make you my wife
I went home and I fetched my gun, my pickaxe and my spade
And I went into the Red Barn and there I dug her grave.
The pickaxe for to break the ground, the spade to shift the clay
And the gun for Maria Martin, for to take her life away.
With heart so light she thought no harm, and to meet me she did go
I murdered her all in the barn, and I laid her body low.
Once the horrid deed was done she lay there in her gore
Her bleeding body I buried, under the Red Barn floor.
Now for many a weary month a-well her spirit couldn’t rest
She appeared to her mother, and her mind was much impressed.
Her mother being so disturbed she dreamt for three nights o’er
That her daughter she lay murdered under the Red Barn floor.
She sent her father to the Barn, and in the earth he thrust
There he found his daughter, lying in the dust.
So come all young men who pass by, with pity look on me
For killing Maria Martin it’s hanged I will be.
It’s hanged I will be.
Chorus x 2