Film on Polstead’s Red Barn murder

Chloe Waterson as Maria Marten and Henry William Galpin as William Corder in The Haunting of Maria Marten.
Chloe Waterson as Maria Marten and Henry William Galpin as William Corder in The Haunting of Maria Marten.

The story of Polstead girl Maria Marten, who was murdered in the Red Barn in the village in 1827, is being told in a new film from Sudbury-based Martello Films.

The Haunting of Maria Marten is a fusion of murder mystery and ghost story.

The murder, famously known as the Murder in the Red Barn, has fascinated the film’s director Michael Munn since he moved to Sudbury in 1984.

“I visited Polstead and came across the wooden plaque at the church which says that Maria Marten had been murdered in the Red Barn and was buried there,” said Mr Munn.

“I’d not heard of her before but that sparked my interest. I researched the case and became convinced that the official version – that she was murdered by her fiancé William Corder – couldn’t be completely true, so when I set up Martello Films a few years ago I wanted to tell the story of Maria’s life and to investigate her death.”

The official version is that Maria, wanted by the police for bearing children out of wedlock, had gone in secret to the Red Barn disguised as a man.

From there she and William would travel to Ipswich to marry, but she died in the barn, said to have been shot by Corder, and was buried there in a shallow grave.

Over the following months Corder persuaded Maria’s family that she was alive and well. Only when Maria’s body was discovered almost a year later was Corder arrested, tried and hanged.

But Mr Munn, after researching the case, is not convinced that’s entirely the way it happened.

Work on the film began three years ago. “We filmed in Polstead, Boxford and Edwardstone, and our amazing costumes were provided by Quay Costumes at the Quay Theatre. We were lucky in getting permission to film inside private buildings of the period,” he said.

Chloe Waterson, of White Street Green, Polstead, was chosen to portray Maria, while Henry William Galpin, from Ipswich, plays William Corder.

The role of Thomas Marten was played by Will Carpenter, from Edwardstone, while Maria’s young step-mother, Anne, is played by Ipswich actress Joanna Davey. The rest of the cast were chosen from in and around Sudbury.

The film includes a modern-day ghost story connected with the murderous tale.

“I don’t want to give away how we link the past with the present,” said Mr Munn. “In bringing Maria’s story to a dramatic conclusion we use a certain amount of poetic licence but not without a basis in fact.

“Our main concern was in making an entertaining film which also happens to be a rather scary ghost story but which would foremost tell the true story of Maria Marten and question the official account.”