Who doesn’t LOVE to know more about the eccentric people of the City of London?
When we talk about extraordinary and eccentricities we may indeed apply to this ingenious and whimsical man.
Martin Van Butchell (1735–1814) was the morning-star of the eccentric world; a man of uncommon merit, science, wonderful and curious singularities, unique manners and mad appearance.
He was the son of a well known tapestry-master to his majesty George II and because of that he had the opportunity to know many distinguished people and also the luck to live in a large house “Crown House”, with extensive gardens in the parish of Lambeth.
The study of the human teeth accidentally took up his attention through the breaking of one of his own, and he engaged himself as pupil to the famous Dr. J. Hunter.
The eccentricities of Martin now began to excite public notice; upon his wife’s death, on January 14, 1775, he decided to have her embalmed and turn her into an attraction to draw more customers. He contacted his teacher of surgery and anatomy Dr. William Hunter and Dr. William Cruikshank who agreed to do the job.
Doctors injected the body with preservatives and color additives that gave a glow to the corpse’s cheeks, replaced her eyes with glass eyes and dressed her in her wedding gown.
The reason of keeping his wife unburied was occasioned by a clause in the marriage settlement, disposing of certain property, while she remained above ground: we can’t decide how far this may be true, but she has never been buried.
He call his children by whistling and by no other way. He dined by himself and gave orders to his children and wife to dine alone too.
His beard has not been shaved or cut for fifteen years, his clothes was once black, but after many years of use it was almost white and lets not forget his white pony that used to be painted with purple dots. He also was seen walking around London with a large Otaheitan tooth or a bone in his hand fastened in a string to his wrist.
Upon the front of his house, in Mount Street, he painted the following puzzle (see photo).
He was an eccentric man with an eccentric life. The embalm body of his wife had to go away after his second marriage. So it ended up in the Royal College of Surgeons.
The embalming was not very effective; the body begun to slowly deteriorate. In 1941, the body of Mary Butchell was finally destroyed in a German bombing raid.