The daughter of a molecatcher (Thomas Marten), Maria had had a checkered past, having had two illegitimate children, one the child of William Corder’s older brother Thomas. That child died in infancy, but another child, Thomas Henry, was alive at the time of Maria’s death. She was four and twenty when she and William began their affair.Share
William held a reputation as a fraudster and a bit of a cad. He sported the nickname of “Foxey,” which indicated his disposition for duplicity. William was known to have sold his father’s pigs without his father’s permission. Later on, he forged a £93 cheque, as well as assisting a local thief, Samuel “Beauty” Smith, to steal a neighbor’s pig.
In shame, William had been sent to London, but he was recalled to Polstead when his brother Thomas accidentally drowned when crossing what he thought was a frozen pond. Over the next eighteen months, William’s father and three brothers died. This turn of events left William the family farm, not a bad thing for a minor son.
Corder reportedly attempted to keep his relationship with Marten a secret, but it became public knowledge when she bore him a child in 1827. Some say the child died soon afterwards, but other rumors suggest the child had been murdered. Corder, according to Ann Marten, supposedly suggested the elopement, claiming he had heard rumors that the parish officers planed to prosecute Maria for the girl’s loose ways.
Originally, the couple was to elope on 16 May, a Wednesday. Corder postponed until Thursday, saying his brother had taken ill. This was questionable for many said his brothers had all passed. On Friday 18 May, Corder called upon the Marten household with the news the local constable had a warrant for Maria’s arrest. In reality, no such warrant existed. He suggested that Maria dress as a man to aid her escape. They would meet at the barn so she might change clothes before they left for Ipswich.
Corder left shortly after the incident, and to cover his trail, he sent letters to Marten’s family, claiming that she was too ill to respond to their letters, that they were now living on the Isle of Wight, that she had injured her hand, etc., but she would return soon for a visit. Unfortunately for Corder, after Maria’s stepmother, Ann Marten, claimed to have had a dream where Maria’s ghost showed the woman her gravesite, Maria’s father dug up his daughter’s remains in the Red Barn on 19 April 1828. (Read more.)