top of page

'Mole House', Hackney

As experienced structural and civil engineers, Alcock Lees is regularly called upon to handle complex or challenging cases. The Hackney 'Mole House' was no exception.

The property in East London, famously destabilised by a ‘mole man’ who spent 40 years digging an illegal network of underground tunnels, has been transformed into an award-winning 3-storey artists’ live-work studio.                                                      


Former owner William Lyttle had spent nearly half a century digging dirt with a shovel and a homemade pulley, hollowing out an underground labyrinth of tunnels and caverns 8m deep and 20m in every direction.


Neighbours had been complaining about Lyttle's burrowing since he moved into the property the 1960s, but he insisted he was only digging a large wine cellar.

In 2006, his illegal handiwork came to light after a stretch of pavement collapsed due to undermining. The council used an ultrasound scanner to reveal the extent of Lyttle’s quarrying and obtained a court order to temporarily evict him so they could fill the holes with concrete. 

When the property came into the hands of its new owner, plans were afoot to transform the space into a live-work studio, whilst retaining the quirk of the building and its history.

About the project

Specialists in unique and challenging projects, Alcock Lees was appointed to conduct site inspections and produce structural calculations to support the build, with particular attention paid to the design of a vast extended basement with a large glass sliding roof, surrounded by sunken gardens. 

200 tonnes of aerated concrete (300 skips worth!) was removed to create the basement; the construction of which took around a year. 

The sheer size of the underground living space presented interesting structural challenges but Alcock Lees’ extensive experience in designing complex basement spaces meant we were perfect to advise on the job.


The property went on to win a New London Architecture Award for ‘Best Dwelling’ and its basement was featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs as an example of creating ambitious subterranean living spaces.


If you’re looking at the creation of a basement or underground living space, call us on 01603 764448 or visit our Structural Engineering page.

The solution


Ready to start?

Every project begins with a conversation

bottom of page