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Drum Manor Cookstown Tyrone + Irish Georgian Society London + Ulster Architectural Heritage Society

Lambeg

“Ruins in Ireland have always been political in light of the country’s history,” lectured University College Dublin Professor Fiona O’Kane to the Irish Georgian Society London some years ago. “In contrast, they possess an insouciance in English paintings. Ruins can be framing devices to real landscape. But the perception of how Ireland is drawn carries a long shadow. There’s a constant iterative of land.” Nothing frames a real landscape better than the remains of Drum Manor outside Cookstown in Ulster’s “West of the Bann” territory. The description of a torn history.

The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society’s latest addition to the country house book genre is Kimmitt Dean’s The Plight of the Big House in Northern Ireland. The writer reports that then owner Augusta Le Vicomte and her second husband Henry James Stewart went to town and country on her inherited house, William Hastings of Belfast in 1869 “hugely extending the existing villa”. It was executed in that Hilary Mantel stoked Tudor soaked Elizabethan oaked castellated vein that architects so excelled at across 19th century Ireland. But then, he summarises, “It was acquired by the Forestry Service in 1964 with consequences for the house, being partly demolished in 1975 to leave the present shell.” The destruction in part of a big house.

At least the damson’d gardens and rolling parkland remain and are open to the public. A silent drum beats again. Balustrades and battlements and buttresses protecting nothing and going nowhere. Transoms and mullions holding air. Crocketed pinnacles pointing heavenward. Metre high green carpet pile. Pearl necklaced capitals. A damsel’d Ayesha Castle tower with no Enya to come to its rescue. And yet Drum Manor has fared slightly better than its neighbour Pomeroy House. All that remains of the latter is a derelict portion of the stable block outbuilding. An adjacent marking on the ground provides a ghostly outline of the house’s footprint encircled by forestry. The demise of a demesne.

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