THE historic Lissan House near Cookstown has just completed a £1.2m restoration programme which sees the estate take one step closer to realising a long held dream of its former owner, the late Hazel Dowling, of restoring the 17th Century home to its former glory.
The stately home, built in 1620, and owned for generations by the Staples family, drew large scale media attention in 2003 when it was runner up in the BBC’s ‘Restoration’ programme. Up until April 2006 with the sad passing of its owner, Mrs Hazel Dowling the home had the longest occupation by a single family of a domestic dwelling in the whole of Ireland.
Hazel worked tirelessly over the last few years of her life to realise her vision for the protection of Lissan House for the benefit of the local community and its development as an attractive destination for visitors. Having secured financial support from South West Action for Rural Development (SWARD), that vision has now taken one step closer to becoming a reality.
This first phase which cost £1.2 million includes substantive repairs and internal works to upgrade the house to make it accessible and attractive for visitors; the creation of a country park with walks, wildlife, ancient forestry as well as an interactive play park for children; the development of a new access road and repairs to the existing 100 year-old DC generator and the restoration of the home’s generator house.
Councillor Trevor Wilson, Chair of the SWARD Programme’s Joint Council Committee said: “SWARD is delighted to play its part in the success of Lissan House and the work that has been completed to date which not only makes the house and grounds secure, safe and welcoming for visitors, but also contributes to the long-term sustainability of this stately home. It is also an excellent example of spend reaching the rural community.”
This was echoed by Sean McGuigan, Vice-Chair of the SWARD Joint Council Committtee. He said: “We are very pleased to support Lissan House Trust to develop its facilities and offerings to visitors. We are confident that the work completed with SWARD financial support will ensure that this project will compliment the entire tourism product of this region.”
Kieran Haughey, Chairman of Lissan House Trust explained future plans for Lissan House. He said: “A business plan and economic appraisal have been completed for the next phase which will involve the restoration of the outbuildings, work to the main building providing, exhibition and gallery space; conference facilities; seminar rooms; a café; and a community space.
“It is planned that work on the next phase will commence in the summer of 2012. It has been wonderful to see the renewal of the house and grounds over the past 18 months and we look forward to receiving our first visitors in Spring of next year.”
In addition to the funding secured from South West Action for Rural Development (SWARD), additional financial assistance was also received from; The Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB), Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT), Cookstown District Council, Ulster Garden Villages, Manifold Trust
Lissan House Trust.