The protagonist of Maiden Castle is also a writer. He’s writing a book about Mary Channings, though Powys doesn’t give us a clue as to who she was. When she is first mentioned I just passed it by. Later she is mentioned again, and yet later with a reference to Maumbury Rings. About the third time I began to suspect that there really was a Mary Channings. The internet revealed the following:
"Mary Channings was forcibly married to an older man whom she disliked. She spent his money extravagantly and then poisoned him to death with mercury. Condemned to death for the murder, pregnant Mary’s execution was delayed so that she could bear and wean the child of her lover (presumably not the husband). The nineteen-year-old Mary was first strangled then burned at Maumbury Rings, Dorchester, on March 21st, 1705, protesting her innocence to the very end. Just under 13,000 people were estimated to have gathered to watch Mary’s execution."
There you have it. Curiosity will lead you to the strangest tales.