Moleman’s “haphazard interventions” feature in Brit artists’ massive sub-basement plans

The mansion in Mortimer Road.

The mansion in Mortimer Road. - Credit: Archant

Proposals to revamp the dilapidated unsafe house of the notorious Mole Man tunneller include reinstating his extensive sub-basement and preserving some of his “haphazard interventions”.

William Lyttle, aka The Mole Man

William Lyttle, aka The Mole Man - Credit: Archant

Despite being unstable, uninhabitable and prone to subsidence because of the network of 20m tunnels dug by eccentric oddball William Lyttle, the house in Mortimer Road, was sold at auction for £1.12m two years ago – 50 per cent more than its guide price of £750,000.

The civil engineer, who died in 2008, had secretly burrowed underneath his period home for 40 years, and was only halted in 2006 when the pavement collapsed and the council evicted him.

Now contemporary radical British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster want to reinstate and extend the three-storey Victorian house in the De Beauvoir Conservation Area, and have enlisted internationally renowned architect David Adjaye OBE to draw up the plans which include a cinema.

His practice Adjaye Associates boasts many high-profile commissions includes designing the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.


Mr Adjaye’s proposal involves digging out the aerated concrete poured into the sub-basement by Hackney Council when emergency work was undertaken to stabilise the property, and replacing it with new reinforced concrete foundations.

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Open plan living areas in the extensive sub-basement would integrate “some of the haphazard interventions by the previous owner” within a sunken landscaped courtyard garden around the perimeter of the triangular corner site, which backs onto Stamford Road.

“It is considered that these elements are all part of the history and contribute to the richness and layering of the site,” states the planning application.

Mr Noble and Ms Webster use waste, scrap metal and taxidermy creatures to create modern sculptures, and their first permanent public sculpture, Toxic Schizophrenia (Hyper Version), was unveiled at Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art in 2009.

Planning permission currently exists on site to demolish the existing house to make way for two new buildings, granted by the Planning Inspectorate after the council refused permission for the pastiche design.