FOLLOWING extensive redevelopment Lissan House near Cookstown officially opened on Tuesday as Northern Ireland’s newest historic house visitor attraction.
The Lissan estate was created in the 17th century and remained the home of the Staples family for nearly 400 years, reputedly the longest habitation by any single family of a country house in West Ulster.
Many people will recall Lissan House coming to prominence in 2003 when its popularity helped it reach the national final of the BBC Restoration programme. Unfortunately second place did not yield a prize and the search continued for the essential funds required to save this unique house. With great determination the last chatelaine of the property – Hazel Radcliffe Dolling (nee Staples) instigated the formation of a charitable organisation, the Lissan House Trust to find the necessary resources to safeguard the house for the future.
Unfortunately Hazel passed away in 2006 and never got to see her wish come through as a restored Lissan House officially opened its doors on Tuesday. However it was a fitting tribute that her nephew and nieces were present to officially declare the house open on what was the sixth anniversary of her passing away. The large crowd that attended the event included the Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill, the Chairman of Cookstown District Council Mr. Sean Clarke and the Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board Mr. Alan Clarke.
Speaking at Tuesday’s official opening Kieran Haughey, Chairman of Lissan House Trust said “Hazel referred to Lissan as this golden place and it is now our job to convey that to our visitors but at the same time create a viable tourist and leisure facility which will underpin our funder’s decision to support this project.” The Rural Development Minister added “The work on Lissan House will preserve a part of the heritage of this area which stretches back some 400 years.”
Councillor Sean Clarke, Chairman of Cookstown District Council stated “It gives me great pleasure to witness the amazing transformation of Lissan House to its former glory. Cookstown District Council contributed £60,000 funding towards the provision of 26 high quality Interpretation Panels located throughout the house and gardens.
These panels provide a unique glimpse of life at Lissan House throughout the centuries and will undoubtedly provide visitors with a memorable and lasting experience for generations to come. I congratulate the Board and Staff of Lissan House Trust for their fantastic achievements and wish them every success for the future”.
The project was funded through the Northern Ireland Tourist Board’s tourism development scheme with other organisations also contributing financially to the venture including SWARD, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Cookstown District Council, the Manifold Charitable Trust, Ulster Garden Villages Limited and UCIT.
Today visitors to Lissan House will encounter modern interactive exhibits and original family furnishings which combine to take them on a unique journey through the history of the estate and the family characters that have shaped it. The demesne which now extents to nearly 300 acres also features a challenging adventure playground for children, a wooded picnic area, walled garden and secluded walks to explore.