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Run down home ‘mole man’ spent 40 years digging a network of tunnels underneath sells for £1.1million

Andrew Binstock
04.04.16

Daily Mail July 2012

It’s probably fair to say the homeowners in one east London street will much prefer the new buyers of this notorious house compared to the previous occupant.

The house was owned by William Lyttle – who was infamously dubbed the ‘Mole Man’ after he dug a series of deep, elaborate tunnels under his home.

The former civil engineer’s tunneling was blamed for disrupting power to neighbours after a 450 volt cable was disrupted and an eight foot hole appeared in the pavement outside his house.

But after years of repair work and legal action, the house in Mortimer Road, Dalston, has finally been sold to new owners – for a whopping £1.12 million.

Mr Lyttle, 79, bored out tunnels 60 foot long and some to a depth of 26 feet under the house in Hackney after he inherited it from his parents.

He started a wine cellar 40 years ago and ended up digging down to the water table, causing a series of problems in the street and for the neighbours.

The elderly eccentric denied he was to blame for the trouble and explained ‘I first tried to dig a wine cellar, and then the cellar doubled. I just have a big basement. It’s gone down deep enough to hit the water table – that’s the lowest you can go.’

It is estimated over the years he scooped out 100 cubic metres of earth from beneath the house and roads next to the triangular plot. Eventually the council evicted him ‘for his own safety’ in 2006 and engineers had to remove 33 tons of debris including three cars and a boat from under the building, before they could infill the tunnels with concrete. He ended up being housed in a flat.

In 2008 the High Court ordered him to pay £293,000 to Hackney Council for repairs and banned him from going near the property but the council was left with a £408,000 bill after Mr Lyttle failed to pay.

Mr Lyttle died in 2010 and the house went under the hammer today – six years after Mr Lyttle’s eviction -in a sale conducted by Auction House.

Bidding started at £730,000 and went up by £5,000 to reach £757,500 before bidding slowed until it had reached £860,000. By then two bidders were left and in £5,000 bids it eventually reached its top level.

The house currently is just a roofless shell but has been granted planning permission for two three storey town houses with gardens and basements.

It is in the De Beauvoir conservation area, close to the new Dalston Junction overground station with its hip bars and trendy Turkish restaurants.

It had a guide price of £750,000 but went under the hammer for £1,120,000 after stiff bidding from several buyers.

The buyer, who bought it on behalf of a client did not wish to give his name, said: “It’s going to be called The Molehole. It’s a property they have been looking for for some time. They are very pleased.”

Last year the derelict house went on sale for £500,000 but no bidders came forward. Auctioneer Andrew Binstock said after the sale: £Unbelievable. We had tons and tons and tons of interest. It was easily the most popular lot we had. You never know in auctions, sometimes buyer apathy kicks in.

“I am delighted so many people came to bid for this and it shows the market is still strong and well above everybody’s expectations.

“What you have got is a prime grade A auction stock, fabulous location. It almost as prime as it gets in terms of north London stock and it’s in the most raw state it can be.”

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