Monday, 5 October 2020

Drum Manor


DRUM MANOR, near Cookstown, County Tyrone, built in 1829, was originally called Oaklands.

It was remodelled and extended in 1869 to the designs of the architect William Hastings, and renamed Drum Manor.

The house of 1829 was built for Major William Stewart Richardson-Brady, DL, and comprised a triple-gabled east front, of which only the ground floor blind walling, rectangular bay windows and polygonal south-east bay remain.

The extensions of 1869 were built for Lord Stuart, and were described at the time as the "tower and main building" of which only the four-storey tower survives intact.

(Image: Ashley McLean)

Of Hastings' original main building the remaining north front, including the main entrance porch, the south front, and probably also the porch on the east side may be identified.

In addition, the south terrace balustrading and steps, and the screen wall and gateway of 1876, may be attributed to Hastings.

Hastings' other works here included the two gate lodges, also of the 1870s.

The manor house was semi-derelict by 1970, with slated roofs, though the roofs were later removed, gables taken down, and the entire interior space, apart from the tower, cleared away to form an open garden within mainly ground floor perimeter walls. 

It owes its origins to the marriage in 1868 of Henry James Stuart-Richardson, Viscount Stuart (later 5th Earl Castle Stewart) to Augusta Liviscount Richardson-Brady, heiress to the Oaklands estate.

Lord Stuart's armorial bearings (top) adorn the manor house.

(Image: Ashley McLean)

Augusta Richardson-Brady was Major Richardson-Brady's daughter.

Her second marriage was to Lord Stuart in 1866. 

She died in 1908 at Drum Manor, without male issue.

In 1865, her name was legally changed to Augusta Liviscount Richardson-Brady by Royal Licence; and, from 1867, her married name became Stuart-Richardson. 

As a result of her marriage, she became the Countess Castle Stewart in 1874.

Immediately upon marriage, Lord Stuart set about reconstructing Oaklands into the Tudor-Revival edifice known as Drum Manor. 

This battlemented sandstone structure once had a tall tower to the east, near the entrance front which was dominated by a huge entrance portal; surmounted by a large tracery window which contained Victorian armorial stained-glass.

Lord Stuart was also responsible for setting out the formal gardens and demesne which survive to this day.

TODAY, Drum Manor Forest Park is one of Cookstown's largest tourist attractions, though only the ground floor outer walls of the manor house survive.

The Northern Ireland Forest Service acquired the estate from the Close family in 1964, and opened it as a forest park in 1970.

The tower and the ground floor walls of the early Victorian manor-house remain intact. 

The balustrade terrace is worth visiting, as the pleasure-grounds and backdrop were specifically designed to provide an impressive vista from this single vantage point.

The pleasure grounds and ponds were developed during a major alteration of the house in the 1870s.

They contain a number of interesting tree species, and the layout of the plantings was carried out deliberately to create a special atmosphere.

Drum Manor Forest Park has many facilities available for educational visits including nature trails, guided tours, picnic areas, seasonal cafe, disabled access toilets and commercially managed forest. 

The forest plots were established from 1965 onwards and include both native and exotic tree species.

The demesne (then known as Oaklands) was established in the 18th century. 

The present house of 1829 exists as a shell.

This serves the purpose of retaining the main building within the landscape but it is unfortunate that it no longer exists as usable. 

In an attempt to avoid incurring rates liability, the Forest Service demolished the mansion.

The manor house was partially demolished in 1975 and a ‘Japanese’ garden was created within the ruins.

A tower, from which there are fine views and additions of 1896, is notable.

There are many excellent ornamental attributes within the site and good planting.

There are mature stands of beech, including a beech shelter belt on the southern perimeter, with a walk inside and a now disused beech avenue leading from a former entrance on the northern side.

The terracing on the south (garden) front of the manor-house survives, complete with a little stone summer house.

This leads to lawns, with trees and shrubs and on to a series of large artificial ponds or lakes, the western of which is silted up.

There are pleasant walks round the lake via bridges.

The walled garden is divided into two parts, formerly laid out in box edges beds in a geometric pattern.

These were grubbed out in favour of a 1970s layout and planting, which is maintained.

Part of the walled garden is designated as a butterfly garden.

The Gardener’s House lies between the walled gardens and is in good repair. 

The stable yard, farm yard and haggard are now car parks.

There are two listed lodges of ca 1870, of which the Cookstown Gate has an impressive entrance archway.

Changes in road alignment have altered the shape of the demesne, which is now 227 acres. 

It was taken over for forestry in 1964 and designated a Forest Park in 1970; the site is a well maintained public amenity with good facilities. 

First published in March, 2011.   I am grateful to the Countess Castle Stewart for information.


Anonymous said...

The forestry service, Ministry of Agriculture, et al, have a lot to account for.


Anonymous said...

They're still doing it, Tim. Think of the recent Orminston House debacle; wouldn't that make an interesting addition to the "Titanic trail"? A (perhaps National Trust) property in Belfast. Ditto Craigavon House...I understand it's not state-owned (in Marxist fashion) though.

I realise you're very fond of the NT, although personally I think some of the blame for it all is with them too.


The Fitzgerald said...

think on this a Government (State)agency in reality a part of the state trying to avoid paying rates ( tho' why it shoiuld beats me as WE are supposed to be the ultimte wonder we have a bloody stupid plac run by bloody stupid people......
and what a bloody waste of heritage we blamed the sods who destroyed so many lovely parts of the past during various disturbances, troubles, whatever: but that the soi disant democracy whould be doing it wholesale...what the hell do we vote for any politician if they wont control the bloody suits who ar bust turnng Northern ireland into their beloved crytpo fascist/stalist nirvana

Racheal Richardson said...

At the beginning of the 17th century the Richardsons were an influential family of Edinburgh burgesses, and Alexander Richardson left his
native Scotland for northern Ireland. In 1617 he bought the estate of Craigbalk in county Tyrone and built Drum Manor or Manor Richardson as it was also known...Alexander Richardson
married Grizel Stewart sister of James Stewart of Ballymenagh in
county Tyrone.

Deberah said...

My great grandmother, as a young girl worked there before coming to Canada. Her name was
Jane Bole of Drumnacross.

Bee Jay said...

My grandfather worked there for a number of years as Land Steward. I have a letter written in hand by Lady Muriel Close as a reference for my grandfather. My father was born at Drum Manor in 1916 during their employment there and the family emigrated to NZ in 1923.