THE BIDDENDEN MAIDS

The Biddenden Maids were among the first conjoined twins to display themselves as a livelihood . Eliza and Mary Chulkhurst were born in 1100 to an upper class family in just outside of Kent, England. The pair were likely pygopagus twins and most illustrations show them as such. There are a few anomalous images depicting the pair joined at the shoulders as well, however, this was likely due to an artists working from description only.

When one twin died in 1134, the remaining one is alleged to have refused separation, saying, ‘As we came together, we will also go together’. She died just hours after her sister.

The twins were quite wealthy in life and left their fortune to the poor, a fortune that included 20 acres of land. The people of Biddenden were so enamored with the sisters and their gracious gift that until the early 1900’s an annual festival was celebrated in their honor. In a somewhat unusual tradition, the creation of ‘Biddenden Cakes’ – featuring depictions of the sisters – were common and a staple treat during the celebration.

While the festival is gone, a row of homes bearing the name Chulkhurst remain on the land the pair donated.

Jan Bondeson chronicles the saga of The Biddenden Maids in his book A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities.

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