Skip to content

Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:
HB09/03/008 A

Extent of Listing:
House, with long gallery wing

Date of Construction:
1650 - 1699

Address :
Lissan House Drumgrass Road Cookstown BT80 9SW


Survey 2:

Date of Listing:
01/10/1975 00:00:00

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:
Country House

Former Use
Country House

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:

IG Ref:
H7973 8231

Owner Category


Exterior Description And Setting

An extensive three-storey house with rendered walls and hipped slated roof, with a single-storey porte-cochere to the front, a single-storey projection to the east end and a circular clock tower projecting to the west end. It stands in a very rural area, set well back from public roads in its own densely wooded demesne. The main entrance is in a porch behind a porte-cochere projecting from the main front which faces approximately south. The south elevation is of three storeys, 9 windows wide to the first and second floors, unevenly spaced but almost all in line from ground floor to second floor. A porte-cochere with tall double-height windows projects from the approximate centre of the ground floor. Roofing of the main block is of hipped form, of Bangor blue slates in diminishing courses toward the bottom, with overhanging eaves on shaped timber rafter ends. The hipped roofs on all elevations pitch down to the rear to form a hidden valley accessible only from the clock turret at the west end. There are three chimney stacks visible on this elevation, the one at the right hand end beyond the front ridge being of very large girth. Chimneys are smooth cement rendered with a weathered sandstone cornice, carrying octagonal stoneware pots. Rainwater goods are of cast iron, comprising moulded guttering and circular downpipes. Walling is smooth cement rendered, lined and blocked, with a raised vertical pilaster-like panel to the upper floors at the right hand extremity. Windows are rectangular timber two-light casements to the second floor, set in plain reveals with projecting stone cills; rectangular two-light casements surmounted by what looks like a fixed top light, to the first floor; and a variety of windows to the ground floor, some similar to the first floor, others entirely fixed lights, or with top-hung vents, and one window, at the right hand extremity, containing vertically hung sliding sashes, 1 over 1, with horns. Below this window at ground level is a canted ventilator. Projecting from the ground floor is a single-storey porch, containing the main entrance, which continues outwards to form a bow-ended porte-cochere. Walls of the porch and porte-cochere are smooth cement rendered with a moulded sandstone cornice, and a sandstone blocking course to the parapet, with a flat roof behind. The porte-cochere is entered by an elliptical-arched sandstone dressed opening in each side to form an elliptical-vaulted passage. Arches are moulded, spanning between stop-chamfered square sandstone piers with moulded cornices, which extend upwards as stop-chamfered sandstone pilasters. The bowed front of the porte-cochere contains three sets of large vertically coupled square four-pane windows with stone block surrounds and double-chamfered sandstone transoms, and is surmounted on the parapet by a circular moulded sandstone vase. The sides of the porch are glazed up to springing height of the arches with full length square 12-pane timber fixed light windows resting on sandstone cills. Within the vaulted passage the front wall of the porch contains a pair of sandstone Tuscan columns 'in antis', that is, set within the square piers of the porte-cochere. The column shafts have a very finely vertically grooved surface. The columns contain the main entrance which comprises a glazed and panelled door set in a timber screen of sidelights and fanlight, and are flanked by six-pane timber fixed light windows. Facing this the rear wall of the porter's room in the bowed end of the porte-cochere is of white painted smooth render, with a projecting plinth; it contains a rectangular timber glazed and panelled door containing lattice panes, flanked by narrow panels with a plain fanlight over set in a semi-circular arched opening. Connected to the main house at the left hand extremity is a two-storey gabled block, called The Creamery, which is described separately along with the outbuildings (HB09/03/008B). The west elevation of the house is of three storeys, with two windows to each side of a central semi-circular three-storey projection which carries up to a fourth storey as a circular tower. Roofing of the main block is of hipped form, of Bangor blue slates in regular courses. Walls are smooth cement rendered, lined and blocked, with moulded stringcourses to each storey, stepping up over door and window openings. In the main block windows to the second floor are rectangular timber two-light casements, resting on a stringcourse; windows to the first floor are larger two-paned fixed lights, one incorporating a top-hung vent; and the ground floor contains three glazed rectangular timber doors and one circular-panelled rectangular door. In the projecting bay there are rectangular sandstone dressed stone mullioned or transom-and-mullioned windows to the first three storeys. The fourth storey contains a circular copper clock face set in a square sandstone surround, and has a shallow copper-covered domical roof behind a parapet, surmounted by a timber louvred lantern with a copper cupola. Connected to the north-west corner of the house is a later two-storey gallery wing projecting at an angle. Its south face consists of a glazed gallery at first floor level which is timber boarded and has a timber framework of glazing; below, at ground level but running into the slope of the hill, the walling is partly of timber sheeting including timber sheeted doors, and partly of harled brickwork set back behind a series of circular cast iron columns which support shaped timber beams to carry the timber boarded flooring of the gallery above. At the western end is the side of a smooth cement rendered porch with rusticated quoins to the western extremity. The roof of the gallery is pitched, of Bangor blue slates in regular courses. The west gable of the gallery is smooth cement rendered, partly lined and blocked, and contains a segmental arched opening between rusticated quoins. The arched opening leads into an open room with high rafter ceiling which contains within it a lower segmental arched and vaulted cement rendered open porch which has seated recesses to each side, a tiled floor, and a pair of arched timber panelled doors leading into the gallery. The northern side of the gallery wing is of rendered finish with a slated roof, and contains rectangular small paned windows in segmental headed openings. The east gable of the gallery wing is smooth cement rendered and contains one small window above a crudely formed projecting ground floor room with low pitched roof. The north or rear elevation of the house is of similar general character and appearance to the south, and consists of three storeys, seven windows wide to the second floor, and includes a full-height raised pilaster-strip to the left hand extremity. Materials are as previous to the south front except that slates appear to be in regular courses. Windows are of similar character and detailing except for the two to the right hand end of the first floor which have small pane divisions. The second ground floor window from the left hand end contains a small-paned lower light which opens as a doorway onto a flight of plain stone steps. The east elevation is of three storeys and three windows wide, much of it covered by a tall single storey projection to the ground floor. The walling of the main block is rendered as previous; the roof is slated as previous. There are two second floor windows, glazed as previous, one to each side of a rendered blind opening. There are also two windows in the first floor, partly hidden behind the steeply hipped and slated roof of the projection. The projection is of rectangular plan with a wide canted bay to the front. The east side is constructed of ashlar sandstone, with a slightly raised frieze, and a projecting stringcourse which forms the cill to a large rectangular window in each face of the canted bay. At the top of each of the two front angles of the bay are oval shaped iron tie bars clasping the corners. The windows are double glazed, small paned with margin lights to the inside, covered over with bulkier framed plate glass to the outside. The northern side of the projecting bay is smooth cement rendered and contains two rectangular blind recesses. The southern side of it is also smooth rendered but is mostly covered by a comparatively modern lean-to conservatory, timber framed, with corrugated sheeted roof and uPVC rainwater goods. SETTING The main driveway approach loops around a lawn in front of the house and includes a passageway through the porte-cochere. The lawn is bordered by mature trees. To the north is dense woodland with a river running through it. There are a number of other structures within the demesne apart form the main house. To the west are various outbuildings (HB09/03/008B) grouped around a large grassed yard. Beyond that to the west is a walled garden which contains a gardener's cottage (HB09/03/008C). To the north of that, in an overgrown area, is an ice house (HB09/03/008D). Lying downhill from the house on its east side is a small generator station (HB09/03/008E). To the east of that is a bridge known as the White Bridge (HB09/03/008F) over the river, from which there is an uninterrupted view of the east end of the house. There is also a bridge called Laurel Bridge (HB09/03/008G) over the rear driveway well to the west of the house, and another bridge, called Harry's Bridge (HB09/03/008H), over the main driveway well to the south-east. Further to the south-east along the main driveway is a gate lodge and a main gateway (HB09/03/008I). In addition to these structures, which are described separately, are a number of other elements of interest within the demesne but in very ruinous condition. They include an old mill standing in dense woodland between the river and the main driveway, to the east of Harry's Bridge. It consists of a gable and one side wall of rubble stonework. There are also some substantial ruins north of the walled garden on both sides of the rear drive as it passes through the upper yard, including gateways and buildings of as yet unidentified function.


Not Known

Historical Information

Originally built around 1690 by Sir Robert Staples; extended in the early 1800s; and altered and extended again in the 1870s, including the addition of a clock tower in 1878 and a windowed porte-cochere c 1880; main staircase and entrance hall enlarged c 1888; long gallery wing to west integrated with house in early 1900s to permit easy access to the first floor of the house for the then owner who was confined to a wheelchair. Apart from its 17th century origins, and later Victorian additions the house as it stands now is basically of the 18th century in general form and exterior appearance, while the interior is largely of the 19th century, with some 18th century elements. The original house of the late 17th century was built of brick made on the estate, local stone, probably from a quarry nearby to the house, and massive oak beams thought to have come from the woodlands on the estate. Part of this 17th century building can still be seen in the core of the house, particularly in the kitchen area where the walls are between six and eight feet thick, and in the basement where very old timbers survive. The estate was reputedly established in 1620 when the Staples family set up an iron works and built houses for their workers. The founder of the Irish branch of this family was Sir Thomas Staples, 1st Baronet, who was fifth son of Alexander Staples of Yate Court, Gloucestershire in England. He arrived in Ireland in the early 1600s and is known to have settled first in Moneymore before building a house at Lissan. There is uncertainty about the form and siting of his first residence at Lissan, but it may have been in the block attached to the south-west corner of the present house, known today as the Creamery. Robert Staples was created Baronet of Ireland in 1628 and served as High Sheriff of Co Tyrone in 1640. Successive members of the family held the office of High Sheriff and sat in Parliament. One of them, Sir Thomas Staples, who died in 1865 at the age of ninety, was the last surviving member of the old Irish Parliament. Another member of the family of note who occupied the house was Robert Ponsonby Staples who was an eminent artist in the late Victorian to Edwardian era. The house remained the home of the Staples family for over 300 years, reputedly the longest occupation by any single family of a country house in the western part of Ulster. The last owner and occupant, and last descendant of the Staples family, was Hazel Dolling, daughter of the 13th Baronet, Robert George Alexander Staples who died in 1970. She died in 2006 and passed the house and estate in trust, bequeathing the house to the community, intended by her to become a centre for music and arts for central Ulster. The Friends of Lissan House Trust are currently working to that end. The extensive estate, which is over 250 acres, includes a number of other buildings, including old farm buildings, an ice house, old stone bridges over the Lissan Water river, a walled garden of four and a half acres, a gardener's cottage, a gate lodge and pillars, an 18th century bridge and cascade designed by the architect Davis Ducart, and a generator house dating from 1902. References - Primary Sources 1. OS Map of 1833. 2. OS Map of 1854. 3. OS Map of 1906. Secondary Sources 1. S. Lewis, A topographical dictionary of Ireland (London, 1837), Vol 1, p 395, and Vol 2, p 287. 2. R.M. Young, Belfast and the Province of Ulster in the 20th Century (Brighton, 1909), p 273. 3. M. Bence-Jones, Burke's Guide to Country Houses, Vol 1: Ireland (London, 1978), p, 188. 4. A.J. Rowan, The Buildings of Ireland: North-West Ulster (Harmondsworth, 1979), p 362. 5. J.A.K. Dean, The Gate Lodges of Ulster: A Gazetteer (UAHS, Belfast, 1994), p 145. 6. J. Musson, 'Lissan House Co Tyrone', Country Life, 12 March 1998, pp 74-79. 7. H.R. Dolling, The Staples Inheritance: 400 Years in the Community (Cookstown, 2000).

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style B. Proportion C. Ornamentation D. Plan Form H-. Alterations detracting from building I. Quality and survival of Interior J. Setting K. Group value

Historic Interest

V. Authorship W. Northern Ireland/International Interest Z. Rarity


This is a house of 17th century origin which has been enlarged and extended over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries. Although the core of the house appears to be of the 17th century, the general form and exterior appearance is of the 18th century, characterised by its generally regular window openings, its broadly treated hipped roofs, and its substantial ballroom extension at the east end. There are also notable Victorian elements including the porte-cochere, of unusual arrangement, on the entrance front, and the clock tower at the west end. An Edwardian innovation was the introduction of electricity, generated by water turbine from 1902 to the present day, making Lissan House one of the first houses in Ireland to have electric power. The plan of the house overall is an intriguing one in terms of the latent 17th century arrangement in some parts and the additive nature of other parts over succeeding centuries, while the rearrangement of the main staircase and the opening up of the main entrance hall has created a spectacular spatial feature. The structure is also of note, comprising some very thick masonry walls indicative of 17th century building, as well as some massive timbers from the 18th to 19th centuries. The building enjoys a fine setting within its own demesne, which is replete with many and varied other estate related structures of interest, and in particular forms a very interesting group along with its immediate outbuildings to the west. Historically, the house is of special interest as having been the oldest continually inhabited historic house in the western part of Northern Ireland, having been built by the Staples family in the late 17th century and owned and occupied by them until 2006. Prior to that the family had established an ironworks here in 1620, thus beginning the development of the extensive estate we see today. The special associations of the house span from the Plantation period in Ulster when Sir Thomas Staples founded the Irish branch of his family, to the early 20th century, when one of his successors who lived here, Robert Ponsonby Staples, was one of the most distinguished artists in Northern Ireland. While clearly of great historic interest as the principal element in a very long-established demesne which is still largely intact, such a house, with combined elements of the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, standing in such a demesne, is also one of great rarity in Northern Ireland and of almost unique value.

General Comments

Date of Survey

11 March 2008