I knew a play of this title (or something like it The Murder at the Red Barn
) having seen it at the Worcester Swan Theatre back in the late 1960's. It was only when coming across it Folk Songs of the British Isles
that I became aware that it was based on this splendid ballad.
According to Andrew Gant, The text and melody was collected by R.A. Gatty (1907). Maria Marten was born in Suffolk in 1801, had several illegitimate children, the last by William Corder. He promised to marry her, but instead murdered her and buried her beneath the floor of her father's barn, going on to marry a lady he had met via a newspaper advertisement. There is a suggestion that Maria's stepmother's dream about the site of the burial was prompted by her own complicity in the crime. The tune is almost identical to the middle section of "Dives and Lazarus" (also known as The Star of the County Down
) and is closely related to "Brigg Fair".
This is marvellous ballad to sing, a typical "Come all ye, ......":