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William CORDER






A.K.A.: "The Red Barn Murderer"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: The victim wanted to marry
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: May 18, 1827
Date of birth: 1803
Victim profile: Maria Marten, 26 (his lover)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Posteal, Suffolk, England, United Kingdom
Status: Executed by hanging in Bury St. Edmunds on August 11, 1828

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The Red Barn Murder was a notorious murder committed in Polstead, Suffolk, England, in 1827.

A young woman, Maria Marten, was shot dead by her lover, William Corder, the son of the local squire. The two had arranged to meet at the Red Barn, a local landmark, before eloping to Ipswich. Maria was never heard from again.

Corder fled the scene and although he sent Marten's family letters claiming she was in good health, her body was later discovered buried in the barn after her stepmother claimed she had dreamt about the murder.

Corder was tracked down in London, where he had married and started a new life. He was brought back to Suffolk, and, after a well-publicised trial, found guilty of murder. He was hanged in Bury St. Edmunds in 1828; a huge crowd witnessed Corder's execution.

The story provoked numerous articles in the newspapers, and songs and plays. The village where the crime had taken place became a tourist attraction and the barn was stripped by souvenir hunters. The plays and ballads remained popular throughout the next century and continue to be performed today.


Maria Marten (born 24 July 1801) was the daughter of Thomas Marten, a molecatcher from Polstead, Suffolk. In March 1826, when she was 24, she formed a relationship with the 22-year-old William Corder (born 1803).

Marten was an attractive woman and relationships with men from the neighbourhood had already resulted in two children. One, the child of William's older brother Thomas, died as an infant, but the other, Thomas Henry, was still alive at the time Marten met Corder. Although Thomas Henry's father wanted nothing more to do with Marten after the birth, he occasionally sent money to provide for the child.

Corder was the son of a local farmer, and had a reputation as something of a fraudster and a ladies' man. He was known as "Foxey" at school because of his sly manner. He had fraudulently sold his father's pigs, and, although his father had settled the matter without involving the law, Corder had not changed his behaviour.

He later obtained money by passing a forged cheque for £93, and he had helped a local thief, Samuel "Beauty" Smith, steal a pig from a neighbouring village. When Smith was questioned by the local constable over the theft, he made a prophetic statement concerning Corder: "I'll be damned if he will not be hung some of these days".

Corder had been sent to London in disgrace after his fraudulent sale of the pigs, but he was recalled to Polstead when his brother Thomas drowned attempting to cross a frozen pond. His father and three brothers all died within 18 months of each other and only William remained to run the farm with his mother.

Although Corder wished to keep his relationship with Marten secret, she gave birth to their child in 1827, at the age of 25, and was apparently keen that she and Corder should marry. The child died (later reports suggested that it may have been murdered), but Corder apparently still intended to marry Marten.

That summer, in the presence of her stepmother, Ann Marten, he suggested that she meet him at the Red Barn, from where he proposed that they elope to Ipswich. Corder claimed that he had heard rumours that the parish officers were going to prosecute Maria for having bastard children.

He initially suggested they elope on the Wednesday evening, but later decided to delay until the Thursday evening. On Thursday he was again delayed: his brother falling ill is mentioned as the reason in some sources, although most claim all his brothers were dead by this time.

The next day, Friday, 18 May 1827, he appeared at the Martens' cottage during the day, and according to Ann Marten, told Maria that they must leave at once, as he had heard that the local constable had obtained a warrant to prosecute her (no warrant had been obtained, but it is not known if Corder was lying or was mistaken). Maria was worried that she could not leave in broad daylight, but Corder told her she should dress in men's clothing so as to avert suspicion, and he would carry her things to the barn where she could meet him and change before they continued on to Ipswich.

Shortly after Corder left the house, Maria set out to meet him at the Red Barn, which was situated on Barnfield Hill, about half a mile from the Martens' cottage. This was the last time she was seen alive. Corder also disappeared, but later turned up and claimed that Marten was in Ipswich, Great Yarmouth, or some other place nearby, and that he could not yet bring her back as his wife for fear of provoking the anger of his friends and relatives.

The pressure on Corder to produce his wife eventually forced him to leave the area. He wrote letters to Marten's family claiming they were married and living on the Isle of Wight, and gave various excuses for her lack of communication: she was unwell, had hurt her hand, or that the letter must have been lost.

Suspicion continued to grow, and Maria's stepmother began talking of dreams that Maria had been murdered and buried in the Red Barn. On 19 April 1828 she persuaded her husband to go to the Red Barn and dig in one of the grain storage bins. He quickly uncovered the remains of his daughter buried in a sack. She was badly decomposed but still identifiable.

An inquest was carried out at the Cock Inn at Polstead, where Maria was formally identified, by her sister Ann, from some physical characteristics: her hair and some clothing were recognizable and a tooth she was known to be missing was also missing from the jawbone of the corpse. Evidence was uncovered to implicate Corder in the crime: his green handkerchief was discovered around the body's neck.


Corder was easily discovered; Mr Ayres, the constable in Polstead, was able to obtain his old address from a friend, and with the assistance of James Lea, an officer of the London police force who would later lead the investigation into Spring Heeled Jack, he tracked Corder to a ladies' boarding house, Everley Grove House, in Brentford.

Corder was running the boarding house with his new wife, Mary Moore, whom he had met through a newspaper advertisement that he had placed in The Times (which had received more than 100 replies). Lea managed to gain entry under the pretext that he wished to board his daughter there, and surprised Corder in the parlour. Thomas Hardy noted the Dorset County Chronicle's report of his capture:

…in parlour with 4 ladies at breakfast, in dressing gown & had a watch before him by which he was 'minuting' the boiling of some eggs.

Lea took him to one side and informed him of the charges; Corder denied all knowledge of both Maria and the crime. A search of the house uncovered a pair of pistols supposedly bought on the day of the murder; some letters from a Mr. Gardener, which may have contained warnings about the discovery of the crime; and a passport from the French Ambassador, evidence which suggested Corder may have been preparing to flee.


Corder was taken back to Suffolk where he was tried at Shire Hall, Bury St. Edmunds. The trial started on 7 August 1828, having been put back several days because of the interest the case had generated. The hotels in Bury St. Edmunds began to fill up from as early as 21 July and, because of the large numbers that wanted to view the trial, admittance to the court was by ticket only. Despite this the judge and court officials still had to push their way bodily through the crowds that had gathered around the door to gain entry to the court room.

The judge, Chief Baron Alexander, was unhappy with the coverage given to the case by the press "to the manifest detriment of the prisoner at the bar". The Times, nevertheless, congratulated the public for showing good sense in aligning themselves against Corder.

Corder entered a plea of not guilty. The exact cause of death could not be established. It was thought that a sharp instrument, possibly Corder's short sword, had been plunged into Marten's eye socket, but this wound could also have been caused by her father's spade when he was exhuming the body. Strangulation could not be ruled out as Corder's handkerchief had been discovered around her neck, and, to add to the confusion, the wounds to her body suggested she had been shot.

The indictment charged Corder with "…murdering Maria Marten, by feloniously and wilfully shooting her with a pistol through the body, and likewise stabbing her with a dagger." To avoid any chance of a mistrial, he was indicted on nine charges, including one of forgery.

Ann Marten was called to give evidence of the events of the day of Maria's disappearance and her later dreams. Thomas Marten then told the court how he had dug up his daughter, and George Marten, Maria's 10-year-old brother, revealed that he had seen Corder with a loaded pistol before the alleged murder and later had seen him walking from the barn with a pickaxe. Lea gave evidence concerning Corder's arrest and the objects found during the search of his house.

The prosecution suggested that Corder had never wanted to marry Maria, but that her knowledge of some of his criminal dealings had given her a hold over him, and that his theft previously of the money sent by her child's father had been a source of tension between them.

Corder then gave his own version of the events. He admitted to being in the barn with Maria but said he had left after they argued. He claimed that while he was walking away he heard a pistol shot and running back to the barn found Maria dead with one of his pistols beside her. He pleaded with the jury to give him the benefit of the doubt, but after they retired it took them only 35 minutes to return with a guilty verdict. Baron Alexander sentenced him to hang and afterwards be dissected:

That you be taken back to the prison from whence you came, and that you be taken from thence, on Monday next, to a place of Execution, and that you there be hanged by the Neck until you are Dead ; and that your body shall afterwards be dissected and anatomized ; and may the Lord God Almighty, of his infinite goodness, have mercy on your soul!

Corder spent the next three days in prison agonising over whether to confess to the crime and make a clean breast of his sins before God. After several meetings with the prison chaplain, entreaties from his wife, and pleas from both his warder and John Orridge, the governor of the prison, he finally confessed. He strongly denied stabbing Maria, claiming instead he had accidentally shot her in the eye after they argued while she was changing out of her disguise.

Execution and dissection

On 11 August 1828, Corder was taken to the gallows in Bury St. Edmunds, apparently too weak to stand without support. He was hanged shortly before noon in front of a huge crowd; one newspaper claimed there were 7,000 spectators, another as many as 20,000. At the prompting of the prison governor, just before the hood was drawn over his head he weakly asserted:

I am guilty - my sentence is just - I deserve my fate - and may God have mercy on my soul

After an hour his body was cut down by Foxton, the hangman, who according to his rights claimed Corder's trousers and stockings. The body was taken back to the courtroom at Shire Hall where it was slit open along the abdomen to expose the muscles. The crowds were allowed to file past until six o'clock when the doors were shut. According to the Norwich and Bury Post, over 5,000 people queued to see the body.

The following day the dissection and autopsy were carried out in front of an audience of students from Cambridge and physicians. A battery was attached to Corder's limbs to demonstrate the contraction of the muscles, the sternum was opened and the internal organs examined.

There was some discussion as to whether the cause of death was suffocation, but since it was reported that Corder's chest was seen to rise and fall for several minutes after he had dropped, it was thought probable that pressure on the spinal cord had killed him.

Since the skeleton was to be reassembled after the dissection, it was not possible to examine the brain, so instead the surgeons contented themselves with a phrenological examination of the skull. Corder's skull was asserted to be profoundly developed in the areas of "secretiveness, acquisitiveness, destructiveness, philoprogenitiveness, and imitativeness" with little evidence of "benevolence or veneration".

The bust of Corder held by Moyse's Hall Museum in Bury St. Edmunds is an original made by Child of Bungay, Suffolk, as a tool for the study of Corder's phrenology. The skeleton was reassembled and exhibited in the West Suffolk Hospital.

Several copies of his death mask were made, a replica of one is held at Moyse's Hall Museum. Artefacts from the trial and some which were in Corder's possession are also held at the museum. Corder's skin was tanned by the surgeon George Creed, and used to bind an account of the murder.

Until 2004, Corder's skeleton was on display in the Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons of England, where it hung beside that of Jonathan Wild. In response to requests from surviving relatives, Corder's bones were removed from display and cremated.


After the trial, doubts were raised about both the story of the stepmother's dreams and the fate of Maria and William's child. The stepmother was only a year older than Maria, and it was suggested that she and Corder had been having an affair, and the two had planned the murder to dispose of Maria so that it could continue without hindrance. Since her dreams had started only a few days after Corder married Moore, it was suggested that jealousy was the motive for revealing the body's resting place and that the dreams were a simple subterfuge.

Further rumours circulated about the death of Corder and Marten's child. Both claimed that they had taken their dead child to be buried in Sudbury, but no records of this could be discovered and no trace of the burial site of the child was ever found. In his written confession Corder admitted that on the day of the murder he and Marten had argued over the possibility of the burial site being discovered.

Popular interest

The case had all the elements to ignite a fervent popular interest: the wicked squire and the poor girl, the iconic murder scene, the supernatural element of the stepmother's prophetic dreams, the detective work by Ayres and Lea (who later became the detective Pharos Lee in stage versions of the events) and Corder's new life which was the result of a lonely hearts advertisement. As a consequence, the case created its own small industry.

Plays were being performed while Corder was still awaiting trial and, after the execution, an anonymous author published a melodramatic version of the murder—a precursor of the Newgate novels—which quickly became a best-seller. Along with the story of Jack Sheppard and other highwaymen, thieves and murderers, the Red Barn Murder was a popular subject for penny gaffs, cheap plays performed for the entertainment of the lower classes in the gin-soaked atmosphere of the back rooms of public houses.

After the execution, James Catnach managed to sell over a million broadsides (sensationalist single sheet newspapers). Catnach's sheets gave details of Corder's confession and the execution, and included a sentimental ballad supposedly penned by Corder himself, but more likely to have been the work of Catnach himself or somebody in his employ. It was one of at least five ballads about the crime that appeared directly following the execution.

Owing to the excitement around the trial and the public demand for entertainments based on the murder, many different versions of the events were set down and distributed, making it hard for modern readers to discern fact from melodramatic embellishment. Good records of the trial exist from the official records, and the best record of the events surrounding the case is generally considered to be that of James Curtis, a journalist who spent time with Corder and two weeks in Polstead interviewing those concerned. Curtis was apparently so connected with the case that when asked to produce a picture of the accused man, an artist for one of the newspapers drew him rather than Corder.

Pieces of the rope which was used to hang Corder sold for a guinea each. Part of Corder's scalp with an ear still attached was displayed in a shop in Oxford Street. A lock of Maria's hair sold for two guineas. Polstead became a tourist venue with visitors travelling from as far afield as Ireland; Curtis estimated that 200,000 people visited Polstead in 1828 alone.

The Red Barn and the Martens' cottage excited particular interest. The barn was stripped for souvenirs, down to the planks being removed from the sides, broken up and sold as toothpicks. It was planned to be demolished after the trial, but it was left standing and eventually burnt down in 1842. Even Maria's gravestone was eventually chipped away to nothing by souvenir hunters. Pottery models and sketches were sold and songs composed, including one mentioned in the Vaughan Williams opera Hugh the Drover.

Corder's skeleton was put on display in a glass case in the West Suffolk Hospital, and apparently rigged with a mechanism that made its arm point to the collection box when approached. Eventually, the skull was replaced by a Dr. Kilner who wanted to add Corder's skull to his extensive collection of Red Barn memorabilia. After a series of unfortunate events, Kilner became convinced the skull was cursed and handed it on to his friend Hopkins. Further disasters plagued both men and they finally paid for the skull to be given a Christian burial in an attempt to lift the supposed curse.

Interest in the case did not quickly fade. Maria Marten; or The Murder in the Red Barn, which existed in various anonymous versions, was a sensational hit throughout the mid-1800s and may have been the most performed play of the 19th century; Victorian fairground peepshows were forced to add extra apertures to their viewers when exhibiting their shows of the murder to cope with the demand. The plays of the Victorian era tended to portray Corder as a cold-blooded monster and Maria as the innocent he preyed upon; her reputation and her children by other fathers were airbrushed out, and Corder was made into an older man. Charles Dickens published an account of the murder in his magazine All The Year Round after initially rejecting it because he felt the story to be too well known and the account of the stepmother's dreams rather far-fetched.

Although diminished, the fascination continued into the 20th century with five film versions, including the 1935 Maria Marten or Murder in the Red Barn, starring Tod Slaughter, which was only released in the US after some scenes were cut. A fictionalized account of the murder was produced in 1953 for the CBS radio series "Crime Classics". The incident has inspired a number of contemporary musicians: No Roses by the Albion Country Band, released in 1971, included the traditional song "Murder of Maria Martin"; more recently, "Murder in the Red Barn", a song by Tom Waits (co-written with his wife Kathleen Brennan) from his 1992 album Bone Machine, and Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman's "The Red Barn" on the 2004 album "2" have commemorated the event. The song "Maria Martin" included on the folk album White Swans Black Ravens was recorded live in Moyse's Hall Museum. Swavesey Village College Theatre Company produced a stage adaptation in 2000, and later revived the production in 2006. The latest revival toured to theatres and received critical acclaim.

In November 2007 a report of a fire that nearly destroyed Marten's still-standing cottage was on the front page of the East Anglian Daily Times. Firefighters saved 80% of the thatched roof at Marten's former home after a chimney fire threatened the "iconic Suffolk cottage", now run as a bed and breakfast.


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  • Maclaren, Angus (1997). The Trials of Masculinity: policing sexual boundaries, 1870–1930. University of Chicago Press, 307. ISBN 0226500675. 

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Executed 11th of August, 1828, for the Murder of Maria Marten, in the Red Barn, the Crime being revealed to the Victim's Mother in Three Dreams

THE murder for which this most diabolical criminal merited and justly underwent condign punishment was as foul and dark a crime as ever stained the annals of public justice. Maria Marten, the victim of his offence, was born in July, 1801, and was brought up by her father, who was a mole-catcher, at Polstead, in Suffolk, where she received an education far superior to her situation in life. Possessed of more than ordinary personal advantages -- a pretty face and a fine form and figure -- it is little to be wondered at that she was beset by admirers, and that, artless and inexperienced as she was, she should have imprudently fixed her affections upon an unworthy object. An unfortunate step ruined the character of the young woman, and a second mishap with a gentleman of fortune, residing in the neighbourhood of her father's house, left her with a child -- which at the time of her death was three and a half years old. About the year 1826 she formed a third liaison, with the man who became her deliberate murderer, William Corder.

William Corder was the son of an opulent farmer at Polstead. Having become acquainted with the girl Marten, the consequence of an illicit intercourse which took place between them was a child. From that time he became much attached to her, and was a frequent visitor at her father's house. The child died within a short period of its birth, and from the circumstance of its having died suddenly, and of Corder having taken it away at night and disposed of its body in a manner which he would never explain, an idea was entertained that it had come unfairly by its death. However strongly this notion may have taken possession of the public mind, after the apprehension of Corder, it does not appear that any real evidence was ever produced publicly to support the impression which had got abroad; but certain it is that the unhappy girl made use of the circumstance as a means of endeavouring to procure the father of the child to fulfil a promise which he had made that he would make her his wife. On the 18th of May, 1827, Corder called at the house of old Marten, and expressed his willingness that the ceremony should be performed; and he said that, in order that no time should be lost, and that the marriage might be as private as possible, he had made up his mind to have it celebrated by licence instead of by banns.

The next day was appointed for the wedding, and he persuaded the unhappy girl to dress herself in a suit of his clothes, so as to secure the greatest secrecy, and to accompany him to a part of his premises called the Red Barn, where she could exchange them for her own, and from whence he would convey her in a gig, which he had in readiness, to a church at Ipswich. The girl consented to this singular proposition, and Corder immediately quitted the house, and was soon after followed by his unhappy victim, who carried with her such part of her own clothes as would be necessary to appear with in church. In the course of a conversation which took place between Corder and the mother of the girl, before their going away, the former repeatedly declared his intention to make the girl his lawful wife, and he urged, as a reason why she should go with him immediately, that he knew a warrant had been issued against her for her bastard children.

Within a few minutes after Corder had quitted the house he was seen by the brother of the girl to walk in the direction of the Red Barn, with a pickaxe over his shoulder; but from that time nothing was ever heard of the unfortunate girl, except through the fictitious communications received from Corder, who still remained at his mother's house at Polstead. The return of Maria Marten had been expected to take place within a day or two after the time of her quitting her father's house; but as she had before occasionally exhibited considerable irregularity in the duration of her visits to Corder, and as also there was an understanding that the latter should procure her a temporary lodging, little anxiety or alarm was at first felt at her prolonged absence.

A fortnight elapsed, however, and then her mother proceeded to question Corder upon the subject, when he declared that she was quite safe and well, and that he had placed her at some distance, lest his friends might discover the fact of his marriage, and exhibit displeasure at the circumstance. Thus from time to time he put off the inquiries which were made of him; but in the month of September he declared he was in ill-health, and quitted Suffolk with the avowed object of proceeding to the Continent; and it is not a little remarkable that before he left Polstead he expressed great anxiety that the Red Barn should be well filled with stock -- a desire which he personally saw fulfilled. He took with him about four hundred pounds in money; and several letters were subsequently received by his mother, who was a widow, and also by the Martens, in which he stated that he was living at the Isle of Wight with Maria.

It was remarked that, although he represented his residence to be in the Isle of Wight, his letters always bore the London postmark. At length strange surmises and suspicions began to be entertained, in consequence of no personal communication having yet been received from his supposed wife. The parents of the unhappy girl became more and more disturbed and dissatisfied; and the circumstances which eventually led to the discovery of this most atrocious crime are of so extraordinary and romantic a nature as almost to manifest an especial interposition of Providence in marking out the offender.

In the course of the month of March, 1828, Mrs Marten dreamed on three successive nights that her daughter had been murdered and buried in the Red Barn. Terrified at the repetition of the vision, an undefined suspicion, which she had always entertained, that her daughter had been unfairly dealt with, appeared fully confirmed in her own mind; and so lively were her feelings, and so convinced was she of the truth of the augury, that on Saturday, the 19th of April, she persuaded her husband to apply for permission to examine the Red Barn, with the professed object of looking for their daughter's clothes.

The grain which had been deposited in the barn had by this time been removed, and, permission having been obtained, the wretched father proceeded to the accomplishment of the object he had in view. He applied himself to the spot pointed out to his wife in her dream as the place in which her daughter's remains were deposited; and there, upon digging, he turned up a piece of the shawl which he knew his daughter had worn at the time of her quitting her home.

Alarmed at the discovery, he prosecuted his search still further, and when he had dug to the depth of eighteen inches, with his rake he dragged out a part of a human body. Horror-struck he staggered from the spot; but subsequent examination proved that his suspicions were well founded, and that it was indeed his murdered daughter, the place of deposit of whose remains had been so remarkably pointed out. The body, as may be supposed, was in an advanced state of decomposition; but the dress, which was perfect, and certain marks in the teeth of the deceased, afforded sufficient proofs of her identity.

As may be imagined, the whole neighbourhood was in an uproar of confusion at this most extraordinary circumstance, and information was immediately conveyed to the coroner, in order that an inquest might be held. By the time a coroner's jury had assembled, a surgical examination of the body had taken place; and Mr John Lawden, a surgeon, proved that there were appearances yet remaining sufficient to indicate that the deceased had come to her death by violent means.

He said that there was a visible appearance of blood on the face and on the clothes of the deceased, and also on a handkerchief which was round the neck; that the handkerchief appeared to have been tied extremely tight, and beneath the folds a wound was visible in the throat, which had evidently been inflicted by some sharp instrument. There was also a wound in the orbit of the right eye; and it seemed as if something had been thrust in which had fractured the small bones and penetrated the brain. When the body was found it was partly enveloped in a sack, and was clothed only in a shift, flannel petticoat, stays, stockings and shoes.

No sooner had the body been discovered than all eyes turned to Corder as the murderer. Information having been dispatched to London, Lea, an officer of Lambeth Street, was forthwith sent in pursuit of the supposed offender. With a loose clue only, he traced him from place to place, until at length he found him residing at Grove House, Ealing Lane, near Brentford, where, in conjunction with his wife, whom he had married only about five months before, and to whom, it was said, he had introduced himself through the medium of a matrimonial advertisement, he was carrying on a school for young ladies.

It was necessary to employ a degree of stratagem to obtain admission to the house; but at length Lea represented that he had a daughter whom he wished to put to school, and he was shown into a parlour, where he found the object of his search sitting at breakfast with four ladies. He was in his dressing-gown, and had his watch before him, with which he was minuting the boiling of some eggs.

The officer called him on one side, and informed him that he had a serious charge against him; he also inquired whether he was not acquainted with a person named Maria Marten, at Polstead, but he denied that he had any knowledge of such a person even by name. He was then secured. Upon his house being searched, a brace of pistols, a powder-flask and some balls were found in a velvet bag, which, on its being subsequently seen by Mrs Marten, was immediately identified by her as having been in the possession of her daughter at the time of her quitting her house for the last time.

A sharp-pointed dagger was also found, and this was identified by a person named Offord, a cutler, as being one which he had ground for the prisoner a few days before the murder was committed. The prisoner, immediately on his apprehension, was conducted to Polstead, in order that he might undergo an examination before the coroner; and the most lively interest was exhibited by the vast crowds of people who had assembled to catch a glimpse of him on his being brought into the town. On his appearance before the coroner he was dreadfully agitated; and the circumstances which we have described having been deposed to by various witnesses, a verdict of wilful murder was returned against William Corder.

Thursday, 7th of August, in the same year, was appointed for the trial of this malefactor, and the anxiety to witness the proceedings in court, or to obtain early information in reference to the case, which almost universally prevailed, was strongly manifested by the assemblage of hundreds of well-dressed persons of both sexes round the front and back entrances to the shire hall, Bury St Edmunds, as early as five o'clock in the morning of that day. The rain fell in torrents, but many persons braved the weather and remained without shelter until nine o'clock, when the Lord Chief Baron (Alexander) arrived, to try the prisoner.

At the moment his Lordship gained admission to the court the scene which presented itself beggars description. The barristers who attended the circuit, amongst whom were to be observed the counsel for the prosecution and the defence, in vain struggled against the pressure of the opposing crowd, and many of them, at the moment they had almost attained their object, were carried back in an exhausted state to the extremest verge of the assembled multitude. When his Lordship had taken his seat on the bench the names of the jury who had been summoned to try the prisoner were called over; but the crowd was so great, and the sheriff's force so ineffective, that it was almost impossible to make way for them into the court. They were, after the lapse of nearly an hour, brought over the heads of the crowd into the passage leading into the hall, some with their coats torn, their shoes off, and nearly fainting.

Nor was the curiosity of the public confined to the courthouse. Hundreds had early assembled at the door of the jail and along the road leading thence to the shire hall, anxious to catch a glimpse of the accused. He left the jail at a quarter before nine o'clock, having previously attired himself with much care in a new suit of black, and combed his hair over his forehead, which he had previously worn brushed up in front. On account of the number of challenges made by the prisoner, it was some time before a jury was empanelled. At length, however, the prisoner was arraigned upon the indictment preferred against him. He pleaded not guilty.

The evidence adduced differed but slightly in effect from the circumstances which we have detailed. Proof was given that at the time of the discovery of the body of the deceased marks were distinctly visible, which showed that she had received a pistol-shot or gun-shot wound; and it was also proved, by the brother of the deceased girl, that the prisoner, at the time of his quitting the house of old Marten on the day of the murder, carried a loaded gun.

He declared that he deeply deplored the death of the unfortunate female in question; and he urged the jury to dismiss from their minds all that prejudice which must necessarily have been excited against him, by the foul imputations which had been cast upon him by the public press. He admitted that the evidence which had been adduced, was sufficient to create some suspicion against him; but he trusted that the explanation which he should give of the circumstances, would at once explain, to their satisfaction, the real bearings of the case.

He then proceeded to say, "No man regrets more sincerely than I do the death of the unfortunate Maria, the circumstances attending which I am now about to state; and much have I to regret, that I for a moment concealed them, but I did so because I was stupefied and horror-struck at the time, and knew not how to act. You have heard of the nature of my connection with the unfortunate Maria; that connection was contrary to the will of my mother, and to conceal her situation, I took lodgings for her at Sudbury, where she was confined. In the usual time she returned to her father's house; in a fortnight after which the infant died -- not, as has been intimated, by violence, but a natural death. Being anxious to conceal the circumstance from my friends and neighbours, it was agreed between her father, and mother, and myself, that Maria and I should bury the child in the fields, and we took it away for that purpose. After this Maria returned to my house at Polstead; and by means of a private staircase I took her to my own room, where she remained concealed for two days. The pistols which have been spoken of were hanging up in the room loaded. I had before that shown her the use of them, and on returning to her father's, she, by some means unknown to me, contrived to get the pistols into her possession. It is well known that at that period Maria was much depressed in spirits, and was anxious that I should marry her, although I had reason to suspect that she was at the time in correspondence with a gentleman in London by whom she had had a child. My friends objected to the match, and I declined it at the time. But although poor Maria's conduct was not altogether free from blame, I was much attached to her, and at length agreed to her wishes; and it was arranged that we should go to Ipswich and obtain a licence for that purpose. Whether I did or did not say anything about a warrant having been issued by the parish officers for her apprehension, I cannot now pretend to say; but if I did, it must have been because such a report was abroad at the time, It was agreed that Maria should go in male attire to the Red Barn so often mentioned in the course of the trial. You have heard from the mother of the unfortunate Maria, that she and I had had words, As we proceeded to the Barn she was in tears. To that Barn we had often repaired before, and frequently passed the night there. When we reached the Barn, words arose, and Maria flew into a passion. I told her that if we were to be married, and to live together, she must not go on so. Much conversation ensued, and on changing her dress, she at length told me, that if we were married we should never be happy together -- that I was too proud to marry her and take her to my mother's, and that she did not regard me. I was highly irritated, and asked her, if she was to go on this way before marriage, what was I to expect after? She again upbraided me, and being in a passion, I told her I would not marry her, and turned from the Barn, but I had scarcely reached the gate when a report of a pistol reached my ear. I returned to the Barn, and with horror beheld the unfortunate girl extended on the floor, apparently dead: I was for a short time stupefied with horror, and knew not what to do. It struck me to run for a surgeon; and well would it have been for me had I done so. But I raised the unfortunate girl, in order, if possible, to afford her some assistance; but I found her altogether lifeless; and, to my horror, I discovered that the dreadful act had been committed by one of my own pistols, and that I was the only person in existence who could tell how the fatal act took place The sudden alarm which seized me suspended my faculties, and I was some time before I could perceive the awful situation in which I was placed, and the suspicions which must naturally arise from my having delayed to make the circumstance instantly known. I, at length, found that concealment was the only means by. which I could rescue myself from the horrid imputation; and I resolved to bury the body as well as I was able. Having done so, I subsequently accounted for her absence in the manner described by the witnesses, saying sometimes one thing to one person, and at other times other things to another. 1 may be asked why, if innocent of the crime imputed to me, I felt it necessary to give those answers? To which I answer, that some persons are driven to do acts from fear which others do from guilt, which is precisely the case with me in this instance. It may be asked, too, why I have not called evidence to prove the facts I have stated; but, gentlemen, I put it to you whether things do not sometimes take place which are only known to the parties between whom they happen; and what direct proof can I give when the only person who knew of these facts is no more? I can for the same reason give no direct proof of the unhappy woman's having got possession of my pistols. I say pistols, because I found the other loaded pistol in the unfortunate Maria's reticule. As to the stabs and other wounds described by the witnesses, I can only say that no stab or cut was given by Maria or my self; and I firmly believe that the surgeons would never have sworn to them, were it not for the circumstance, of a sword having been found in the room in which I was arrested. If any stab did appear on the body, it must have been done with the instrument used in disinterring it."

Having concluded his address by a strong appeal to the jury upon the probabilities of the case, a number of witnesses were called, who spoke to the prisoner's good character. The Lord Chief Baron summed up, and a verdict of "Guilty" was re turned. At this point the prisoner was first observed to raise his handkerchief to his eyes; and during the subsequent passing of the sentence of death, he seemed to be dreadfully affected. On his return to the jail, he seemed to recover his spirits; but the only desire which he expressed was, that he should he permitted to see his wife. To this request an immediate assent was given, and at two o'clock on the Saturday afternoon, she was admitted to the prisoner. The meeting between her and her wretched husband was of a most affecting character, and it did not terminate until near an hour had elapsed. During that evening, the prisoner was constantly attended by the reverend chaplain of the jail; but notwithstanding the religious exhortations which he received, he exhibited no inclination to make any confession of his crime. On the following day the prisoner attended chapel in the customary manner, and during the performance of the service he appeared deeply affected. On his return to his cell, he threw himself upon his bed and wept bitterly for a considerable time. In the course of the afternoon, it was hinted to him that his defence could scarcely be believed; but in answer he said that, "Confession to God was all that was necessary, and that confession to man was what he called popedom or popery, and he never would do it." It was subsequently suggested to him that he must have had great nerve to dig the grave while the body lay in his sight, when his reply was, " Nobody knows that the body lay in the barn and in sight, whilst I dug the bole;" but then, suddenly checking himself, he exclaimed, "O God! nobody will dig my grave." In the course of the afternoon, he had a second and last interview with his wife, and the scene was truly heartrending. He expressed the most anxious fears with regard to the manner in which she would be in future treated by the world; and implored her, should she ever marry again, to be cautious how she accepted a proposition reaching her through the equivocal medium of a public advertisement. The parting scene was most dreadful, and the wretched woman was carried away from the cell in a state of stupor. After Mrs Corder had retired, Mr Orridge, the worthy governor of the jail, made the strongest efforts to induce the unhappy prisoner to confess, pointing out to him how greatly be would add to his crime, should he quit the world still denying his guilt. Corder then exclaimed, "O sir, I wish I had made a confidant of you before, I often wished to have done it, but you know, sir, it was of no use to employ a legal adviser and then not follow his advice." Mr Orridge said that there was no doubt that was very proper, up to the time at which he was convicted, but that now all earthly considerations must cease. The wretched prisoner then exclaimed, "I am a guilty man," and immediately afterwards made the following confession:--

"Bury Jail, August 10, 1828 -- Condemned Cell,
Sunday Evening, Half-past Eleven."
"I acknowledge being guilty of the death of poor Maria Marten, by shooting her with a pistol. The particulars are as follows:-- When we left her father's house we began quarrelling about the burial of the child, she apprehending that the place wherein it was deposited would be found out. The quarrel continued for about three-quarters of an hour upon this and about other subjects. A scuffle ensued, and during the scuffle, and at the time I think that she had hold of me, I took the pistol from the side-pocket of my velveteen jacket and fired. She fell, and died in an instant. I never saw even a struggle. I was overwhelmed with agitation and dismay -- the body fell near the front doors on the floor of the barn. A vast quantity of blood issued from the wound, and ran on to the floor and through the crevices. Having determined to bury the body in the barn (about two hours after she was dead), I went and borrowed the spade of Mrs Stowe; but before I went there, I dragged the body from the barn into the chaff-house, and locked up the barn. I returned again to the barn, and began to dig the hole; but the spade being a bad one, and the earth firm and hard, I was obliged to go home for a pick-axe and a better spade, with which I dug the hole, and then buried the body. I think I dragged the body by the handkerchief that was tied round her neck. It was dark when I finished covering up the body. I went the next day and washed the blood from off the barn floor. I declare to Almighty God I had no sharp instrument about me, and that no other wound but the one made by the pistol was inflicted by me. I have been guilty of great idleness, and at times led a dissolute life, but I hope through the mercy of God to be forgiven.
Witness to the signing by the said William Corder,

On the next morning the confession was read over to the prisoner, and he declared that it was quite true; and he further said, in answer to a question put to him by the under-sheriff, that he thought the ball entered the right eye.

He subsequently appeared much easier in his mind, and attended service in the chapel immediately before his being carried out for execution. He still wore the clothes in which he was dressed at the time of his trial. As allusions were made to his unhappy situation in the prayers which were read, he appeared convulsed with agony; and when the service was over, although he appeared calm, his limbs gave up their office, and he was obliged to he carried to his cell.

At a few minutes before twelve o'clock he was removed from the dungeon in which he had been confined, and conveyed to the press-room, where he was pinioned by the hangman, who had been carried down from London for the purpose of superintending the execution. He was resigned, but was so weak as to be unable to stand without support. On his cravat being removed he groaned heavily, and appeared to be labouring under great mental agony. When his wrists and arms were made fast, he was led round towards the scaffold; and as he passed the different yards in which the prisoners were confined, he shook hands with them, and speaking to two of them by name, he said, "Good bye, God bless you!" They were considerably affected at the wretched appearance which he made; and "God bless you!" "May God receive your soul!" were frequently uttered as he passed along. The chaplain preceded the prisoner, reading the usual Burial Service, and the governor and officers walked immediately after him. The prisoner was supported up the steps which led to the scaffold; he looked somewhat wildly around, and a constable was obliged to support him while the hangman was adjusting the fatal cord. A few moments before the drop fell he groaned heavily, and would have fallen, had not a second constable caught hold of him. Everything having been made ready, the signal was given, the fatal drop fell, and the unfortunate man was launched into eternity. He did not struggle; but he raised his hands once or twice, as if in prayer; the hangman pulled his legs, and he was in a moment motionless. In about nine minutes, however, his shoulders appeared to rise in a convulsive movement; but life, it seemed, had left him without any great pain. Just before he was turned off, he said, in a feeble tone, "I am justly sentenced, and may God forgive me."

Mr Orridge then informed the crowd that the prisoner acknowledged the justice of his sentence, and died in peace with all men. Thus did this unhappy man terminate, by an ignominious death, a life which, judging from his age and healthy appearance, might have been prolonged to an advanced period in comfort and independence.

The mob collected on this occasion was computed to amount to upwards of seven thousand persons, and occupied every spot of ground from which a glimpse of the final scene of the wretched man's life could be obtained. A considerable portion of the persons collected were women and as soon as the execution was over, they dispersed from before the drop, and proceeded to the Shire Hall, where a large number of persons had assembled in order to obtain a view of the body.

At two o'clock the body was exposed on the table in the centre of the Shire Hall; it was naked from the navel upwards. The crucial operation had been performed and the skin of the breast and stomach turned back on each side. The body measured, as it lay, five feet five inches in length, and presented a very muscular appearance. The face and throat were somewhat swollen and discoloured, the right eye was open, and the left partially so; the mouth was also open sufficiently to show the teeth. The body was taken to the hospital the next day to be dissected, in pursuance of the sentence.

After the execution a spirited bidding took place for the rope which was used by the hangman; and as much as a guinea an inch was obtained for it. Large sums were offered for the pistols and dagger which were used in the murder, but they became the property oil the sheriff of the county, who very properly refused to put them up to public com petition. A. piece of the skin of the wretched malefactor, which had been tanned, was exhibited for a long time afterwards at the shop of a leather-seller in Oxford-street.

We regret to say that little credit is to be attached to the confession which was made by the unhappy man on the night before his execution; for, taking the case in all its bearings, there can be little doubt that the murder was the result of premeditation.

The pistols which the wretched malefactor carried with him had, according to the testimony of witnesses who were called for the defence, long been in his possession; but we are at a loss to know with what object he should have carried them in his pocket, loaded as they were, on the day of the murder, unless with a preconceived intention of taking away the life of his unhappy paramour. Upon consideration of the main features of the case, we fear that, revolting as such a conclusion must be to all persons possessing the common feelings of humanity, it must be supposed that the unhappy Maria Marten was enticed by her bloodthirsty assassin to the Red Barn, for the sole purpose of being there murdered. Corder's possession of the gun and the pistols, as well as the circumstance of his having been seen carrying the pick-axe to the barn, all tend to confirm this belief; and if a motive be looked for sufficient to induce the commission of this most heinous offence, a second murder, namely that of the infant child of the malefactor and his victim, and a desire to conceal a secret which he knew to be in the possession of the latter, and which might have been employed by her to the detriment of her seducer, may be at once assigned. There can be little hesitation in imputing so fearful an addition to his offence as that to which we have alluded to a man, whose cold-blooded villainy shines though every passage of his connection with his miserable victim, and of his subsequent life. His conduct in buoying up the anxious and inquiring hopes of the girl's mother after the murder, in so long residing on the very spot where his crime had been committed, probably in the daily habit of visiting the very barn, which was at once the scene of the death, and the grave of the wretched girl, exhibit him to have possessed a heart callous to the feelings of a man. Frightful, however, as was his crime against society, awful as was the expedient to which he resorted to get rid of what he deemed an annoyance and an obstruction to his wishes and comfort, he committed a no less dreadful offence against the welfare and happiness of the woman whom be made his wife, in permitting her to enter into the bonds of matrimony with him -- a wretch, for whom even the punishment which be received at the hands of justice was scarcely retributive; knowing, as he did, that accident, one false step of his own; a persevering inquiry as to the place of abode of the girl Marten, would at once and for ever blast the hopes which she might have formed of future peace and domestic felicity. The mode in which he proceeded in this new insult to humanity, at once exhibited a heart upon which the recollection of past guilt could produce no effect.

The advertisement which he caused to be inserted in the paper was in the following form:

"A private gentleman, aged twenty-four, entirely independent, whose disposition is not to be exceeded, has lately lost the chief of his family by the hand of Providence, which has occasioned amongst the remainder circumstances the most disagreeable to relate. To any female of respectability, who would study for domestic comfort, and who is willing to confide her future happiness to one in every way qualified to render the marriage state desirable, as the Advertiser is in affluence; many happy marriages have taken place through means similar to this now resorted to. It is hoped none will answer through impertinent curiosity; but should this meet the eye of any agreeable Lady who feels desirous of meeting with a sociable, tender, kind; and sympathising companion, she will find this advertisement worthy of notice. Honour and secrecy may be depended upon. As some little security against idle application, it is requested that letters may be addressed (postpaid) A.Z., care of Mr Foster, stationer, 68, Leadenhall street, with real name and address, which will meet with most respectful attention,"

The following curious conversation in reference to his marriage is related to have taken place after his conviction.

Attendant: Pray, Mr Corder, may I ask whether it is true that it was by advertisement that you were first introduced to Mrs Corder? -- Corder: It is perfectly true.

Did you receive any answers to it? -- I received no less than forty-five answers, and some of them from ladies in their carriages.

Really! well, that surprises me. -- It may well surprise you, as it did myself, but I missed of a good --

Pray how was that? -- I will tell you. In one of the answers which I received, it was requested that I should attend a particular church on an appointed day, dressed in a particular way, and I should there meet a lady wearing a certain dress, and both understanding what we came about, no further introduction would be necessary.

But how could you know the particular lady, as there might be another lady dressed in the same way? -- Oh, to guard against any mistake, the lady desired that I should wear a black handkerchief, and have my left arm in a sling; and in case I should not observe her, she would discover me and introduce herself.

And did you meet her? -- I did not; I went to the church, but not in time, as the service was over when I got there.

Then as you did not meet her, how could you tell that she was a respectable woman? -- Because the pew-opener told me that such a lady was inquiring for a gentleman of my description, and that she had come in an elegant carriage, and was a young woman of fortune. [Here the prisoner sighed heavily.]

Then you never saw her afterwards? -- No, never; but I found out where she lived, and who she was; and would have had an interview with her, were it not that I was introduced to Mrs Corder, and we never parted until we were married.

Pray, sir, was that long? -- About a week

We have reason to believe that this last assertion, like many of those made by the wretched man, was totally untrue; and that in reality he had been introduced to Mrs Corder at a sea-port town, in the course of the summer before the marriage. They afterwards met at the shop of a pastry-cook in Fleet-street, and subsequently, singularly enough, the young lady having answered the advertisement, her next meeting with her future husband took place at the same shop. Mrs Corder, whose maiden name was Moore, previously to her marriage kept a school in the neighbourhood of Gray's-inn-lane, and was very respectably connected.

The Newgate Calendar


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