RIP William Lyttle: The Mole Man

By Scott Wood Last edited 167 months ago

Last Updated 18 June 2010

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.