Partner Ann Chitting

Queer Places:
St. Edmundsbury Cathedral Bury St Edmunds, St Edmundsbury Borough, Suffolk, England

Anne Chitting and Mary Barber lay in the same tomb, in 1606, at the church of St James in Bury, Suffolk.

"At this point — early in the seventeenth century — women step into the picture. The earliest example I know of two women being buried side by side in this way is the monument to Ann Chitting and her friend Mary Boldero Barber in the church of St James in Bury in Suffolk." Alan Bray

Both Ann Chitting and Mary Barber were married, and Roger Barber, the husband of Mary Barber, was also buried by her. The friendship between Ann Chitting and Mary Barber evidently had a sufficiently formal and objective character for them to be buried together: "Henry her sonn her body here did place / next to her friend whose soules in heave' imbrace." We know of the monument (now lost) because of the manuscripts of the Suffolk antiquary Henry Chitting. Mary Barber was the niece of Francis Boldero, the servant and official of the lord keeper Sir Nicholas Bacon, the Chipping's family patron.

September 6, 1600 marks the death of Mary Barber of Suffolk, whose tombstone, as Alan Bray proposes, may be the first public inscription in modern Europe explicitly to proclaim an intimate female friendship as eternally significant. After Barber's beloved friend the widow Ann Chitting died in 1606, followed soon thereafter by Mary's husband Roger, Ann's son Henry buried the three together in the church of St. James. Mary lies between Ann and Roger, the inscription declaring that the two women "whole soules in heave' imbrace" had "lived and loved like two most vertuous wights" and thus that "whose bodyes death would sever" the son "unites". In so doing, Henry Chitting joins two politically connected families specifically through the heavenly "imbrace" of female friends.

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