It’s as if The Argory and Ardress House (County Armagh’s finest) were blended and transplanted in rural County Londonderry. Cumber House has the seven bay with breakfront containing a tripartite window over a fanlighted entrance door of The Argory and the white painted rendered walls of Ardress House. The house is Grade A Listed, the equivalent of Grade I in Great Britain. Alistair Rowan writes in The Buildings of Ireland: North West Ulster (1979), a seminal work sponsored by Lord Dunleath’s Charitable Trust, “A seven bay two storey house with tripartite centre door. It looks about 1820, though the lower floor was built earlier by William Ross, who lost his money in the American War of Independence and sold the house in 1785.”The Listing dates the building a decade earlier, “The Ordnance Survey Memoir for the parish of Cumber, compiled around 1835, states, ‘The present house was built by James Ross Esquire in 1810 and cost about £700, planting included, and other improvements round the house. It is handsome and commodious, and has a western aspect.’” Cumber House remained in private ownership until 1972 when it was purchased by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).
Cumber House is well looked after by the GAA with a variety of community uses occupying the rooms. Earlier in the 21st century, the GAA spent £1.2 million restoring the house including its fine interior plasterwork. The Fat Fox Café has opened in one of the two main reception rooms flanking the entrance hall. Three high sash windows overlook the river and woodland at the bottom of a grass bank. The café is already a brunch hit with locals and drivers seeking a pitstop on the Cookstown to Derry City road. The single storey stable block on the opposite side of the road has also been restored: the fronting lodges now contain a hair salon and a vets’ practice. Cumber House is rumoured to be the most haunted house in the north of Ireland. The Lawrence Photograph Collection includes an image of Cumber House taken by Robert French (1841 to 1917). The photograph was taken towards the end of his life. Over a century later, nothing has changed except ivy framing the breakfront has gone. Perhaps the original occupants are still in residence too.