Sins of the fathers (and mothers...)
William Corder and Maria Martin, the major players in the Red Barn affair, both came to sticky ends but their children did not fare much better.
Maria had three children by three different fathers, although only her second child, by Peter Mathews, ‘A Gentleman’, survived into adulthood. Thomas Henry Martin was three years old when his mother was killed, but he grew up living with Maria’s father and step-mother, and eventually took over the Martins’ cottage for a rent of one shilling a year.
Peter Mathews had been supporting his son to the extent of £5 per quarter – which was far more than a parish bastardy order would have demanded. Presumably he carried on with the arrangement after Maria’s death. He may even have made a cash settlement on the child at some point, he could certainly afford it; he left £18,000 on his death in 1870. It is unlikely though that Thomas Henry Martin saw any of that money.
The Ipswich Journal, in December 1887, reported that Thomas Henry Martin, aged 63, had died in Maria Martin’s cottage where he had lived all of his life. The circumstances were tragic. His wife, who was several years older than him, was bedridden, ‘a helpless invalid’. He was unable to work so they were very poor. His wife heard him fall over several times but was unable to go and help him. She lay in bed for 24 hours without food or water before someone came and discovered the body…
William Corder’s wife Mary, whom he met after advertising in the newspapers for a wife, was six months pregnant at the time of his trial. The child, John Corder, was born in his grandmother’s house in Polstead three months later, but it was reported that he had a withered arm and may also have been mentally handicapped.
If a relationship of sorts grew up between the two Mrs Corders, it soon soured. Eight years later Mary Corder junior, brought an action for false imprisonment against William Corder’s sister Elizabeth, her husband Martin Harvey and others, following an incident outside their home. It seems that Mrs Corder junior was seeking financial support for herself and her son, and was convinced that Mrs Corder senior was hiding in her daughter’s cottage...
Subsequently the newspapers reported that Mrs Corder junior and her son were effectively destitute. Mary Corder junior died in Colchester in 1857, but John Corder lived for another 35 years. He died in an asylum in Essex in 1893.
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