Lissan House, built in 1620, has had a turbulent history. Passed from one failing family member to another, it belonged to the Staples family until 2006, when the last heir died and it was passed to a charitable trust.
The house was built by Thomas Staples, the 1st Baronet of Lissan and Faughanvale, around 1620. Yet just after it was built, it was threatened by the 1641 Rebellion in Ireland, when many country houses were burned and their owners killed. However, Lissan survived because of the iron works which had been installed by Thomas Staples and were needed by the rebels.
Family members over the years lived varying lives of prosperity and poverty. The Reverend Thomas Staples co-founded the Tyrone Mining Company, and his son, John Staples, owner from 1774, sent back lots of artwork and books from his trips to Italy. He and his wife, Henrietta, made connections with lots of important Irish families and were great great grandparents of the writer C.S. Lewis. However, the 10th Baronet, Nathaniel Staples, who settled there in the 1880s, set off the estate’s decline with his extravagant spending, which no amount of careful financial balancing could fix.
By 1943, the estate had been stripped of all furnishings and most of its land had been sold. An estate manager employed by the Staples family divided the house into apartments, and, for 20 years, over a 100 people lived in flats and tenements set up in the old rooms. Lots of the expensive contents of the house and book were sent to Springhill House in County Londonderry and were never returned. This estate manager, Harry Dolling, ended up marrying the family’s eldest daughter, Hazel. Since there were no male heirs to the family, Hazel and Harry ran the estate together for many years. It was featured in the BBC TV series Restoration in 2003 but, though it made it to the final, didn’t receive any funding. Today, Lissan is run and supported by a charitable trust, who restored and opened the building in 2012.
At Lissan you can go on a guided tour of the house, or stop at the coffee house (there’s a dog-friendly café, too). There are a couple of short walks to do, taking you round the estate to see the bridges and old ice house in the woodland.