“The Murder of Maria Marten”


William Corder has Maria Marten meet him at the red barn before they go to Ipswich to be married. He murders her and buries the body in the red barn. Her body is discovered by following her mother's dream. Corder is tried and sentenced to be hanged.


Description based on broadside Bodleian, Harding B 14(239). Roud assigne the same number to "Maria Marten"; the texts are clearly different and told from a different point of view. This is a gallows confession.

There is a sequel broadside -- Bodleian, Johnson Ballads 2416, "A copy of verses, on the execution of Wm. Corder, for the murder of Maria Marten, in the Red Barn, Polstead," unknown, no date -- in which he is executed August 11. The commentary to Broadside NLScotland L.C.Fol.70(71b) states that a "broadsheet published in London by James Catnach about this crime sold over one million copies."

Hall, notes to Voice03 for "Maria Marten": "The story captured the popular imagination through its additional representation in the melodrama, _Murder In The Red Barn_, played by countless amateur and touring companies."

Yates, Musical Traditions site _Voice of the People suite_ "Notes - Volume 3" - 19.8.02: "[Marten's] three illegitimate children - to different fathers - and her possible criminal activities with Corder became overshadowed by the myth that grew up around her death. Indeed, research now suggests that her mother's 'supernatural dreams' were motivated not so much by psychic phenomena as by her own criminal knowledge and probable association with Corder."

A note for _The Haunting of William Corder_ on the Alistair Ferguson site: "The true-life murder of Maria Marten, upon which John Latimer's famous [Victorian] melodrama 'Maria Marten; or The Murder in the Red Barn" is based, has been adapted several times over the years. This is my version of the story."

There are references at IMDB [Internet Movie DataBase site] to movies from 1902 (_Maria Marten: or, The Murder at the Red Barn_), and 1935 (_Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn_). - BS

The Digital Tradition lists this has been collected from one Joseph Taylor (initially in 1908), who sang a three-verse fragment to the tune of "The Star of the County Down"/"Dives and Lazarus." - RBW

Historical references

  • Aug 11, 1828 - William Corder is executed for the May 1827 murder of Maria Marten (source: NLScotland commentary to broadside L.C.Fol.70(71b))

Cross references


  • Bodleian, Harding B 14(239), "Murder of Maria Marten, by William Corder" ("Come all you thoughtless young men a warning take by me"), E.M.A. Hodges (London), 1855-1861; also Firth c.17(110), Firth b.25(379), "Murder of Maria Marten by W. Corder"; Firth c.17(111), "Murder of Maria Martin by W. Corder"
  • NLScotland, L.C.Fol.70(71b), "The Murder of Maria Marten by W. Corder," unknown, c.1845


  2. Roud #215
  3. BI, BdTMoMM


Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1862 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 14(239))