Artist pair announce plans to preserve former De Beauvoir home of "Mole Man" which features elaborate tunnel network
PUBLISHED: 14:19 17 February 2014 | UPDATED: 14:37 17 February 2014
The new owners of an infamous house which a man dug a labyrinth of tunnels underneath say they plan to retain most of the original structure.
Artists Sue Webster and Tim Noble bought the former home of eccentric William Lyttle, who was given the nickname Mole Man after spending 40 years constructing an elaborate network of tunnels of up to 60ft at his house in Mortimer Road, De Beauvoir.
Hackney Council only became aware of his activities in 2006 after neighbours complained about noise and disturbances and subsequently evicted the 79-year-old. He was rehoused in a flat, where he later died in 2010, and ordered to pay costs towards remedial work.
The council found skip loads of junk, including the wrecks of four Renault 4 cars, a boat, scrap metal, old baths, fridges and dozens of TV sets stashed in the tunnels underneath the property.
In 2011, Hackney Council refused planning permission for two new four-storey townhouses on the site because it wanted to see the building, which they regarded of “local townscape merit” restored to its former glory. However, the government’s planning inspectorate overturned the council’s decision in 2012.
The derelict and roofless home, bought by Mr Lyttle in the 70s, was sold at auction in 2012 for a reported £1.12m, by which time permission for demolition had been granted.
But Ms Webster and Mr Noble have now hired leading architect David Adjaye to design the house to retain as much of the original property as possible.
Ms Webster said: “Our intention is to keep as much of the original building as possible as we want to preserve the history of the Mole Man whilst adding a new layer for the future.
“We also plan to trace the existing print of the area dug out by William Lyttle in order to create a basement space.
“We have men currently working on site clearing out the internal rubble and relics that have fallen inwards including the original roof and floorboards which have rotted due to being exposed.”