RIP William Lyttle: The Mole Man

Mole Mans House.jpg
The Mole Man’s House by Dan K

Londonist wishes to bid farewell to one of London’s finest and, ultimately, not too dangerous eccentrics: William Lyttle, the “Mole Man”, is dead. Mr. Lyttle achieved fame in 2006 when Hackney council ordered him to stop his 40 year burrowing under his home on 121 Mortimer Road, N1. No one knew why or how far Mr. Lyttle was digging but in his time of hacking at the Hackney borough earth it was estimated that he managed tunnels “spreading up to 20m in every direction from his house”, removing, again estimated, 100 cubic meters of earth.

Lyttle never revealed his reasons, cloaking them in humour; one apocryphal story is that he claimed to be digging to the local bank to rob it but when he arrived it had become a wine bar. “I just have a big basement,” he told the Guardian in 2006. “It’s gone down deep enough to hit the water table – that’s the lowest you can go.” His neighbours felt differently, especially when one of his tunnels collapsed in 2001, leaving a wide gash in the pavement. “You could see all the tunnels sprawling out all over the place inside,” a local said at the time “it was crazy.”

Too crazy for Hackney, Mr. Lyttle was moved into a, presumably not ground floor level, flat on Lawrence Court in 2009 and handed a bill for the structural support of his home and the filling in of his tunnels. It was there his body was found; he is thought to have died from natural causes. It is reported that while at the flat Mr. Lyttle couldn’t resist knocking a hole between the kitchen and living room.

Mr. Lyttle is thought to have inspired the character ‘Soap Distant’ the subterranean adventurer of Robert Rankin’s Brentford Trilogy and Iain Sinclair wrote of him in Hackney, That Rose Red Empire.

Hackney Police are attempting to trace Mr. Lyttle family and anyone with information should telephone 020 7275 3211.

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  • http://skitster.blogspot.com/ Scott Wood

    I was thinking about this this morning and I think the reason I’m so in love with people like William Lyttle is that they remind us that London, and life, is so much more that what we see in front of us as we’re walking down the road.

  • http://undefined Christopher
  • http://undefined stamfordman

    You wouldn’t have been in love with him if you knew him – unfortunately he was a very bigoted and sometimes threatening man. It’s easy to romanticise from afar.

    • http://skitster.blogspot.com/ Scott Wood

      I’m sure William Lyttle wasn’t perfect but he was an outsider who came at London in a highly original way. I did not know him but I have picked up a lot of affection for him from Hackney and beyond. You are entitled to express your opinion but you may thought it more considerate if you had waited until the man was in his grave.

      • http://undefined stamfordman

        Exactly. But you know more about him now from someone who did know him. As you say, there is ‘so much more that what we see in front of us as we’re walking down the road’.

        • http://skitster.blogspot.com/ Scott Wood

          And I hope you feels better for sharing. In the same spirit other people did feel differently to you. Streetwise Opera paid tribute to “a total gentleman – giving up his seat for other people in rehearsals and his cheerfulness and kindness will live long in the memory.”

  • Guest

    Well, if you knew the man and have things to say about him, please visit the facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/William-Lyttle-the-Mole-Man-of-Hackney/230456096979889); I’m undertaking researches about him and any comments will be helpful and highly appreciated !

  • Guest

    Well, if you knew the man and have things to say about him, please visit the facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/William-Lyttle-the-Mole-Man-of-Hackney/230456096979889); I’m undertaking researches about him and any comments will be helpful and highly appreciated !

  • Guest

    Facebook page : William Lyttle, the mole man of hackney (sorry link’s not working it seems)

  • Guest

    Facebook page : William Lyttle, the mole man of hackney (sorry link’s not working it seems)

  • Lady19_shy

    William lyttle was a very dear friend and neighbour of mine, so what if he found pleasure in digging holes under his house! Its was his house after all.. He will be sadly missed and when they tear down his house and build something new, I for one will be very sad, as we’re losing a piece of art and mole mans legacy!!