The home of the Hackney eccentric known as “the mole man”, who died last year, is being sold for £500,000 – half the price of other houses in the area.
William Lyttle was a retired engineer who spent the last 40 years of his life digging an extensive web of tunnels stretching up to 20m around his Victorian property on Mortimer Road in the De Beauvoir area of Hackney.
Lyttle’s family have been fighting for years with planners and Hackney Council for the right to demolish the house. The council has refused, due to the street’s status as a conservation area. The family has now decided to sell it.
The council discovered in 2006 that Lyttle had been tunnelling under his house. A spokesperson for the council said: “Following inspection, council surveyors were left with no option but to obtain a court order to temporarily evict the owner.”
This was done, the spokesperson said, in order to enable engineers to fill the excavations with cement so that the building could be made secure and to safeguard the owner from the risk of serious injury or death.
After staying in a hotel for a while, Lyttle was given a nearby council flat.
When the council took over maintenance of the property in 2006 the house was in a very poor state and it was forced to spend close to £300,000 on repairs, which Lyttle was asked to repay in 2008.
Despite his extensive tunnelling, according to neighbours, he could not resist knocking a hole between the kitchen and the living room in the flat. He died in the flat last year.
Toby, a mechanic in a neighbouring shop called Nick’s Body Parts, told ELL: “When he was alive he would always be really friendly. But when you mentioned his house he started acting a bit weird.”
Move With Us, the company handling the sale, said they did not want to comment. Their online advertisement reads: “The property requires full internal and external refurbishment but has the potential to be a fabulous family home once restored to its former glory.”