New to the market: Des-res. Bijou. Situated in heart of up-and-coming De Beauvoir Town, this deceptively spacious Victorian corner town house offers much natural sunlight and room for extension, both above and below street level. The property boasts a rustique plumbing system and al fresco feel. The previous owner undertook extensive DIY. Unfurnished. Some work needed. £500,000 ONO.
Or, in other words, the derelict former home of of the "Mole Man", which has no roof and sits above a labyrinth of underground tunnels which took 40 years to construct, is up for sale.
While perhaps attracted to the south-east-facing frontage, bidders should perhaps take note that the toilet facilities – which were on the landing the last time anyone ventured inside – consist of a length of tube connecting the toilet bowl to the basement.
William Lyttle, who dug the network of tunnels beneath his Hackney home, was a "local legend". When his excavation work was uncovered in 2006, council officers found four Renault 4 cars, a boat, scrap metal, old baths, fridges and dozens of TV sets. "We heard he was even building an underground swimming pool in there," said neighbour Hilda Bussey, 87.
Mr Lyttle, who died in June last year, was evicted soon after the 60ft network of tunnels was discovered, spreading "up to 20metres in every direction from his house". His story soon spread.
"I heard he was digging a tunnel underneath his neighbour's garden," said one Hackney resident, William Church, yesterday. "They used to hear things underneath there but they couldn't work out what the sounds were."
Another neighbour, Bridget Doganis, a 40-year-old writer, said: "I heard he was digging out the earth and selling it for a great deal of money as ship's ballast. He is like a legend around here. A few of the neighbours knew him well and they always said he was a very intelligent person."
Justin Gerrie, the 32-year-old manager of a nearby pub, said he was planning to hang a homage to the "Mole Man" on his walls. "I have asked the local paper to send round some copies of those sandwich-board ads so I can frame them and hang them up. His story adds a level of intrigue to the area."
The house, which stands in the heart of one of the more desirable areas of North London, is surrounded by metal fencing and scaffolding. The paint is peeling from the walls and a single curtain hangs in one one the few windows which still has any unbroken panes of glass. The roof was removed last year by agents working for Mr Lyttle's heirs – Fraser and Fraser from the television series Heir Hunters – "due to safety fears".
Neil Fraser said yesterday the family hoped to raise "in excess of £700,000" from the sale.
Mr Lyttle earned a mock "blue plaque" for his work, marking the dwellings of "English eccentrics". But he took his motivation for removing hundreds of cubic metres of earth from his basement to the grave.
According to the Londonist, he claimed to be "digging to the local bank to rob it but when he arrived it had turned into a wine bar".