Hidden depths: Mole Man’s house

By James Hobbs, London

It looks at first like any other renovation in rapidly gentrifying Dalston, east London. But this house in Mortimer Road was for more than 40 years the home of William Lyttle, whose nickname of Mole Man came from his habit of digging a network of tunnels beneath it for up to 20 metres in all directions. This didn’t go down well with his neighbours, especially when the pavement outside his house fell in, or when he tapped into a 450 volt cable and power was lost. Complaints led to his eviction. Rehoused in a flat, and deprived of his digging, he died within a few years.

Now the crumbling house has been bought at auction for more than £1m by artists Sue Webster and Tim Noble, who have hired the architect David Adjaye – his design for the National Museum of African American History and Culture is currently under construction in the National Mall, Washington, DC. Mole Man’s house is, for now, no more than a fine display of corrugated iron and scaffolding.

Update (summer 2016): the site is still looking pretty much as it does in this drawing. This project may have hit the buffers.

Update (June 2018): things are moving on – there are definite signs of redevelopment activity. 

Update (June 2021): it’s finished. There’s another house by Adjaye just around the corner


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