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A property we sold at auction over 14 years ago continues to make the headlines – if you have not heard of him before, meet the ‘Mole Man’ William Lyttle!

16 May 2024

A property we sold at auction over 14 years ago continues to make the headlines – if you have not heard of him before, meet the ‘Mole Man’ William Lyttle!

A recent Financial Times article from the 3rd of May 2024 delves into the enigmatic life of William Lyttle, famously known as the “Hackney Mole Man,” who passed away in June 2010. Lyttle, a 79-year-old with obscure origins, spent over 40 years living in a deteriorating house at 121 Mortimer Road, De Beauvoir Town, Hackney, which became a symbol of eccentricity and danger.

Lyttle’s peculiar habit of digging elaborate tunnels beneath his property captured international attention. The tunnels were discovered to be 8 meters deep and 20 meters wide. The truth remains elusive despite various theories about his motivations, including criminal involvement or estranged family ties.

After Lyttle’s eviction in 2006 and subsequent death, the fate of 121 Mortimer Road became uncertain. Hackney Council stabilised the property and attempted to trace Lyttle’s surviving family. Eventually, the house went to auction in 2012 and was sold through Auction House London to artists Sue Webster and Tim Noble for £1.2 million.

Rather than demolishing the house, Webster and Noble opted to preserve its facade and salvage remnants of Lyttle’s original work. The article explores the perspectives of former tenants and local historians, shedding light on the enigmatic figure of the Hackney Mole Man and the enduring fascination with his underground endeavours.


It’s probably fair to say the homeowners of one east London Street will much prefer the new buyers of this notorious house to the previous occupants.

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 tunnelling was blamed for interrupting neighbours’ power 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 feet 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 dug down to the water table, causing 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 – the lowest you can go.’

It is estimated that 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.

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

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 is currently just a roofless shell, but planning permission has been granted for two three-storey townhouses with gardens and basements.

It is in the De Beauvoir conservation area, close to the new Dalston Junction overground station, which has 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 for a client who 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 quickly 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. It shows that the market is still strong and well above everybody’s expectations.”

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


Written by Andrew Binstock

16 May 2024

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