Monday, 31 December 2007

Images of Maria Martin's Cottage

Still in existence, the cottage is now a Bed and Breakfast. It recently suffered some damage as a result of a fire (click here to read further).

(from the St. Edmundsbury Borough Council website)

(from Buried Passions: Maria Martin and the Murder in the Red Barn)


(From - The Red Barn Mystery: Some New Evidence on an Old Murder)

(from Buried Passions: Maria Martin and the Murder in the Red Barn)


Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Red Barn Book Covers and Title Pages

Here are some scans of book covers/title pages used with permission from Stewart P Evans.

These are scans of books from his own collection.

I found them on an interesting forum thread on the Casebook: Jack the Ripper site.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Sally Sloane

I found this on Warren Fahey's excellent Australian folklore site. It's the lyrics of a song based on the murder that have travelled all the way to Australia and were sung by Sally Sloane. Her recollections about the song:

"You know there are bits in it I can't remember where her body was tied up in a sack and mangled with many a dreadful wound. The cook, I think, mangled her up and put her in the bag. Her mother dreamt the same dream for three weeks and the neighbour with his pickaxe is part of it too. Anyhow they dug the ground and there they found where she was. "

Link to the lyrics

Link to information about Sally Sloane

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Huish or Maginn?

From a response I received regarding the book The Red Barn, I tend to think that Peter Haining has made an error about the authorship of the book. The response I recieved asserts the book is likely to be written by Robert Huish.

Maginn's supposed authorship comes from, according to the response I received about the book, one John Timbs. A book he wrote (Predictions Realized in Modern Times) under the psuedonym Horace Welby asserts that Maginn was the author of the book.

Charles Welch also asserts Maginn's authorship :

Sadleir , notes that 'Halkett & Laing attribute the work to William Maginn on the strength of a paragraph by Charles Welch, published in The Library Journal, vol. v, p. 88, March 1880'.

-from the British Fiction 1800-1829 database

I found a small copy of part of what Welch wrote on Google Books.

I am having trouble finding anything on the internet verifying Huish as the author. A lot of websites assert his authorship, but none provide any evidence. If anyone who might read this knows anything please let me know.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Catnach's Broadsheet

The broadsheets that were released during William Corder's trial and after his execution were one way in which people capitalized on the popularity of the murder. One of these, written by James Catnach, supposedly sold over one million copies. The Catnach broadsheet also includes a 'confessional ballad' written, it is asserted, by William Corder himself. It is more than likely that Catnach or an associate wrote the ballad rather than Corder.

Catnach broadsheet from Wikipedia

The ballad provides a remorseful recount of the murder and finishes with a resigned farewell...

Adieu adieu, my loving friends my glass is almost run,
On Monday next will be my last when I am to be hang'd.

So all young men who do pass by with pity look on me,
For murdering of that young girl I was hang'd upon a tree.

Versions of this ballad also travelled orally through the 19th century throughout England but as Warren Fahey points out, "Ballads such as The dreadful murder of Maria Marten and the red barn door were sung all over Great Britain and taken to Canada, the USA and Australia." When Australian composer/folk music collector Percy Grainger recorded Joseph Taylor in 1908 at Brigg, Lincolnshire, he sang an abbreviated version of this ballad.

If you'll meet me at the Red Barn
As sure as I have life
I will take you to Ipswich Town
And there make you my wife.

This lad went home and fetched his gun,
His pickaxe and his spade.
He went unto the Red Barn
And there he dug her grave.

With her heart so light she thought no harm
To meet her love did go.
He murdered her all in the barn
And he laid her body low.

Information on Joseph Taylor can be found here at the (Mostly) English Folk Music website.

Joseph Taylor from the (Mostly) English Folk Music Website

Apparently the melody Taylor sang was derived from the Dives and Lazarus song family. The cylinder recordings Grainger made are available on the album Unto Brigg Fair.

Taylor's version of the ballad can be listened through the EFDSS website (listen here).

The Catnach ballad has also been recorded by Shirley Collins and the Albion Country on their album No Roses. Using the same melody as Taylor it incorporates some very inventive folk rock instrumentation that emphasises the very striking and evocative quality of Shirley Collins' voice on this track.

No Roses by Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band (from the No Roses website)

Other modern interpretations of the Catnach broadsheet ballad:

Maddie Southorn - The Murder of Maria Martin
Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman - The Red Barn
White Swans Black Ravens - Maria Martin

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

William Maginn's book available online

I searched around for the Maginn book today with the aim of trying to obtain it in some shape or form only to find that it is available online in full at Google Books.

The title below links directly to the online copy.

The Red Barn: A Tale, Founded on Fact

Sunday, 18 November 2007

William Maginn

Peter Haining in Buried Passions suggests that the book that transformed the original story into a more theatrical 'villain verses innocent maiden' that pervades the public perception of the murder was not the James Curtis book (written at the time of the trial and famously bound in Corder's skin). It was rather a book by William Maginn called The Red Barn. This version of the story apparently is quite similar in content to the plays that were performed about the murder. The plates below were originally from The Red Barn (by way of Peter Haining's Buried Passions).

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Differing Views on the Murder

Maria Martin was murdered then buried in the barn.

The depictions below give an impression of where the body was buried.

(from the St. Edmundsbury Borough Council website)

(from Buried Passions: Maria Martin and the Murder in the Red Barn)

Supposedly Maria Martin's father, Thomas Martin was motivated to search for Maria's body by his wife, Ann Martin (Maria's step-mother). It is commonly thought that she had a succession of dreams that convinced her of Maria's fate and final resting place. It has been argued that she had prior knowledge of the murder and, in order to take revenge on William Corder, she fabricated the dreams as means to tell people without incriminating herself. In this version of events her relationship to Corder was obviously different, it suggests that she was in cahoots with Corder and was fully aware of Maria Martin's death. This leads me to wonder then why Corder didn't accuse Ann Martin of being involved. The other option was that she was so convinced of Corder's guilt, she used the dreams as a ruse to convince everyone that what she believed was true.

Donald McCormick (writer of The Red Barn Mystery: Some New Evidence on an Old Murder) posits that the murder was a tangled web involving a host of characters, but chiefly had Samuel 'Beauty' Smith, a criminal who eventually was transported to Tasmania, as the real killer (Corder supposedly shooting her, but not fatally).
But both these explanations like any other views about the murder that include a third party, make you wonder why (if any of them were true) Corder remained tight-lipped.

Sunday, 28 October 2007


Polstead is where Maria Martin was murdered. She also lived in Polstead for most of her life with the exception of some alleged wayward fluttering around London and elsewhere. The red barn, where the deed took place, is no longer there. Nowadays the farmland where it sat is just that, farmland. I had an opportunity to visit Polstead and using a map I got from Moyse's Hall in Bury St. Edmunds I took a look around. Since then I have found a few other maps in books.
(From - The Red Barn Mystery: Some New Evidence on an Old Murder)

Along with a cohort I had a look for the red barn and managed to find the area where it was. According to the map I was looking at and the little I read about its location I figured it to be about 50 metres or so off the road we were on (Martin's Lane). But since it was on private property decided not to venture any closer. Since it was burnt down in 1842 there is nothing to suggest anything much ever took place there, except grazing.

We also stopped at
St. Mary's Church, where Maria Martin was buried. Her tombstone has been gradually chipped away to nothing by souvenir seeking visitors. I found a picture of the location where Maria Martin was buried before the tombstone had completely disappeared. The remnants are slightly below the cross hair.
(from Buried Passions: Maria Martin and the Murder in the Red Barn)

There's little to suggest that the churchyard is anything other than the final resting place for the people of Polstead. Although there is a weathered wooden panel that is fixed to a shed around one side of the church.


This blog is a way for me to provide a few musings about the Red Barn Murder. I won't outline what actually took place. This has already been done to a very good standard on the St Edmundsbury Borough Council website. There are a lot of images, mainly taken from the St Edmundsbury site, on the net. I have found a few others which are from out-of-print books I have managed to get hold of. I will endeavour to put these on soon.

(from Buried Passions: Maria Martin and the Murder in the Red Barn)