Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mole man of Hackney

Now entirely roofless, the 20-room house above in the Hackney area of north London (1st and 2nd images) has sold for more than £1.1million ($1.7million). The property belonged to the infamous "Mole Man," retired civil engineer William Lyttle (3rd image, another photo here), who spent decades tunneling beneath it until his death in 2010. Here is a brief chronology:
Lyttle hollowed out a labyrinth of tunnels up to 18m (60') long and up to 8m (26') deep beneath the home he had either inherited from his parents or purchased. Beginning in the 1960s, he is estimated to have scooped 100 cubic meters of earth from beneath his lot and the adjacent roads and houses. "I often used to joke that I expect him to come tunnelling up through the kitchen floor," said a neighbor. But Lyttle countered, "I first tried to dig a wine cellar, and then the cellar doubled, and so on. But the idea that I dug tunnels under other people's houses is rubbish. I just have a big basement. It's gone down deep enough to hit the water table - that's the lowest you can go." In and around that "basement," he squirreled away 4 Renault cars, a boat, scrap metal, bathtubs, and dozens of TV sets. His backyard contained 30 tons of excavated gravel and junk, and he had propped up the house with wooden beams and household appliances.

August 2006
Lyttle had been blamed for holes appearing in the pavement and regular power blackouts. Surveyors finally confirmed the danger of the situation and the court ordered Lyttle to stop tunnelling. Evicted and put up in a hotel by the Hackney Council until 2009, he was eventually resettled in an apartment.

April 2008
To prevent collapse, the Council surrounded the house with scaffolding and poured concrete into the tunnels. The High Court ordered Lyttle - who was by no means poor - to pay £293,000 ($460,000) to the Council for repairs and legal costs, and banned him from his property. The amount due ballooned to £408,000 ($640,000) after he refused to reimburse the Council and incurred further debt for maintenance and rent on his temporary accommodation.
 June 2010 
After Lyttle dies, officials embark on a search for a possible estranged wife and daughter of the tunneller, who would inherit the proceeds from the sale of his property.

July 2012
Once containing a total of 33 tons of debris, the house and lot went on the market for £750,000 ($1,177,000). The derelict building will be razed and 2 3-storey townhouses with gardens and basements will be built on the lot.
The buyers want to remain anonymous, but said through a spokesman, "They are very pleased with the property," which has the added cachet of having once belonged to the "Mole Man."

Previous posts about hoarding, squatting, evicting, and digging:

1 comment:

  1. I think that with the electric wheelchair, you would feel more comfortable. It would need much less effort to operate.


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