CONSERVATIONISTS have expressed their shock at a “deliberate” fire which badly damaged an historic Tyrone property.
Favour Royal House, an unoccupied stately home situated between Aughnacloy and Augher, sustained both internal and external damage in last week’s blaze.
Up to six fire appliances were called to the manor house, dating back to the 1800s, on Friday afternoon.
Two males were arrested by police on suspicion of arson but were later bailed pending further inquiries.
The three-storey Tudor-Gothic mansion, a listed building, was occupied by the Moutray family until 1976.
Situated in the Clogher Valley, the stately home was once located on a sprawling estate of over 6,500 acres.
However, much of the land has been acquired by the forest service in recent years and the property itself has been the subject of recent vandalism.
While the fire service is treating the blaze as “deliberate”, a PSNI spokesperson confirmed inquiries were continuing.
Rita Harkin, of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, condemned those responsible for the extensive damage.
She confirmed Favour Royal has been on the organisation’s “at risk” register since the mid-1990s.
“No doubt the people of Aughnacloy share our disbelief that people would purposefully damage a building of such architectural importance in their own area,” she said.
Despite the incident, Ms Harkin hoped every effort should be made to retain what historical fabric remains of the property and replicate what has been lost as a result of the fire.
“Many of the buildings on the ‘at risk’ register have found a new life at the heart of their communities and others are in search of sustainable new uses,” she said.
“Even severely fire-damaged listed buildings, like Christ Church in Belfast, are now playing a vital role in the wellbeing of their area. We remain hopeful that the same positive future awaits Favour Royal.”
Dungannon councillor Robert Mulligan, who inspected the damage for himself, confirmed part of the building’s roof was badly damaged and the internal floors were “burnt quite seriously”.
“It is in a very bad state at the moment but the stone structure of the building is still there and looks quite sound,” the UUP man said.
Mr Mulligan said it was his understanding that the property was purchased a number of years ago with a view to building a golf course and hotel on the site – however, such plans appear to have been shelved.
A DOE spokesman said: “Following the weekend fire at Favour Royal House, Aughnacloy, a Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) architect visited the site and has identified that the roof has collapsed over the majority of the house and principal roof bearing timbers have collapsed. External walls however remain intact and much internal detail remains including the staircase, intricate plasterwork and joinery.
“NIEA is seeking immediate engagement with the owner’s agents to safeguard the remainder of the fabric and get a roof back onto the property before major deterioration sets in.”