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Cookstown crest.jpg
Cookstown coat of arms
United Kingdom Northern Ireland adm location map.svg
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Location within Northern Ireland
Population11,599 (2011 Census)
Irish grid reference H8178
  Belfast 45 miles
Country Northern Ireland
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district BT80
Dialling code 028
Police Northern Ireland
Fire Northern Ireland
Ambulance Northern Ireland
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NI Assembly
List of places
Northern Ireland
54°38′49″N6°44′42″W / 54.647°N 6.745°W / 54.647; -6.745 Coordinates: 54°38′49″N6°44′42″W / 54.647°N 6.745°W / 54.647; -6.745

Cookstown (Irish : An Chorr Chríochach, [3] IPA:[ˈanˠˈxoːɾˠɾˠˈçɾʲiːxəx]) is a small town in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. It is the fourth largest town in the county and had a population of 11,599 in the 2011 census. [4] It, along with Magherafelt and Dungannon, is one of the main towns in the Mid-Ulster council area. It was founded around 1620 when the townlands in the area were leased by an English ecclesiastical lawyer, Dr. Alan Cooke, from the Archbishop of Armagh, who had been granted the lands after the Flight of the Earls during the Plantation of Ulster. It was one of the main centres of the linen industry west of the River Bann, and until 1956, the processes of flax spinning, weaving, bleaching and beetling were carried out in the town.


Cookstown's famous main street (laid out from c.1735–c.1800), is 1.25 miles (2.01 km) long and 135 feet (41.15 m) wide, one of the longest, and widest in Ireland. [5]


The main street, looking north. Slieve Gallion is in the background. Cookstown looking north.jpg
The main street, looking north. Slieve Gallion is in the background.

Plantation of Ulster

The lands around the present site of Cookstown were, prior to the early 17th century, in the hands of the O'Mellan Clan and were broadly known as "Mellanagh". This land was confiscated by King James I after the Flight of the Earls of Tír Eoghain and Tyrconnell in 1607 and a series of Rebellions in the area which saw the native landlords ousted from their holdings. The O'Mellan land was held to be the property of the Established (Anglican) Church and was thus presented to the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh who was charged with overseeing the settlement of the area with English and Scots "planters". In 1620, a small portion was leased by James Stewart (a Scots settler in the area) and lands around the townland of Corrcreagh (Irish : An Chorr Chríochach) were leased to an English ecclesiastical lawyer, Dr Cooke, who fulfilled the covenants entered in the lease by building 10 houses on the land (today covering the area known as Oldtown), which he stipulated were all to have front gardens (a tradition which still remains in place). In 1628, King Charles I granted Letters Patent to Cooke permitting the holding of a twice-weekly market for livestock and flaxen goods.

1641 Rebellion

In 1641, the native Irish revolted against the Planters in a bloody rebellion. Cookstown, being in the heartland of Ulster insurgency, was abandoned to the rebels who immediately seized the important Iron works at Lios Áine (later Lissan), and the area became a hotbed of activity since weapons such as pikes were forged for the rebel cause. Lissan was one of the first estates in this area to be settled when it was purchased by Sir Thomas Staples of Yate Court near Bristol in 1610. Sir Thomas' wife Charity, Lady Staples (by then a widow) and their five children were captured during the Rebellion by Hugh Og O Quin. Imprisoned in the castle at Moneymore 5 miles away, they were held there and later at Castlecaulfield until Moneymore and the estate were liberated by the Royalist army in 1643. When the armies of Charles I reached Cookstown in 1643, they routed the rebels and razed the town to the ground.

18th century

The 1641 Rebellion had a devastating effect on the town and development ceased for nearly a century. Over the succeeding years, the lands around Cookstown were progressively bought up by William Stewart of Killymoon until in 1671 all of Dr Cooke's lands were in the hands of the Stewart family. Settlement however remained sparse and by 1734, only 2 inhabited houses remained at Oldtown. William Stewart and later his son James set out plans for the town soon after this. Inspired by the Wide Streets Commission's work in Dublin, they planned a new town to be built along a tree lined boulevard 135 feet wide which would connect the Killymoon Demesne with Oldtown, a distance of over a mile and a quarter. This street was laid out by the mid-1790s and has remained at the centre of Cookstown's development ever since covering Killymoon Street, Church Street, Chapel Street, Loy Street, William Street, James Street Oldtown Street and finally Milburn Street and being the longest main street in Ireland. All remaining traces of Cooke's town were obliterated at this point. [ citation needed ]

Throughout the remainder of the 18th century, Cookstown prospered quietly as a market town where linens, seeds and other agricultural produce were marketed at its famous market. In 1802, Col William Stewart (James Stewart's unmarried son) approached the famous London architect, John Nash and requested that he visit the area to rebuild the Castle of Killymoon which had been burnt in 1801. The Castle was built in just over a year at a cost of £80,000 and was Nash's first Irish Commission. It is two stories high and has two large towers to the East and West, one circular the other (slightly lower) octagonal. Parts of the original castle were retained and its former Chapel became Nash's library.

In addition to Killymoon, there is evidence to suggest that Nash also designed the original St Luran's Parish Church on Church Street in 1822 and certainly plans for the church exist in his hand.

It is also suggested that Nash designed the dower house of Killymoon on Chapel Street (now divided into two houses) and it is certain that he designed the Rectory at Lissan for the Rev John Molesworth Staples in 1807.[ citation needed ]

19th century

However, Cookstown's greatest development came with the Industrial Revolution.[ citation needed ] With the establishment of Gunning's Linen Weaving Mill, the expansion of the Wellbrook linen finishing estate, the establishment of Adair's weaving mill at Greenvale and the final arrival of the railways, Cookstown's population quadrupled between 1820 and 1840. The railways allowed the fast transport to and from the town of agricultural produce. Two railways established terminus railway stations at Cookstown - the London, Midland and Scottish Railway in their dressed stone station designed by Charles Lanyon (now much altered as a Chinese restaurant on Molesworth Street) and the Great Northern Railway in their brick station next door (now Cookstown High School's Hockey Club). Both transported goods and livestock for sale to Cookstown's market.

With the exception of Killymoon Castle, all of Cookstown's best architecture dates from this period and the town still resembles almost exactly the town developed at this time. Probably foremost among the buildings of this period is J.J. McCarthy's Church of the Holy Trinity on Chapel Street which is one of McCarthy's earliest commissions in which the influence of AWN Pugin's St. Giles' in Cheadle can be ascertained.

Other fine buildings of this period include the Scottish Baronial former Courthouse (currently derelict) on Chapel Street; the Classical First Presbyterian Church (Loy Hill) and Italianate Molesworth Presbyterian Church (Molesworth Street); the Romanesque Methodist Church (Church Street); the Hibernian Bank on James Street and the pair of railway termini on Molesworth Street.

20th century

With the linen and later the hat-making and brick manufacturing industries, Cookstown continued to prosper in the early 20th century and its population continued to expand. Little architecture of any note dates from this period as the Victorian structures of the previous generation continued to fulfil their purpose. World War I had a devastating effect on the local community at a cost of life commemorated in the prominent Cenotaph (loosely based on Lutyens' Whitehall Cenotaph) at the centre of the town unveiled in 1927. This is Cookstown's sole piece of public sculpture.

On 17 June 1920, during the Irish War of Independence, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) raided the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) barracks in Cookstown, [6] with help from four sympathetic RIC officers. In a brief firefight, IRA volunteer Patrick Loughran was killed. He was the first IRA volunteer killed on active service in what became Northern Ireland. [7] [8]

As industry developed, a Technical College was established on Loy Hill in a Queen Anne style red brick structure. This was opened by Mrs. Adair, whose husband owned the Greenvale Mill, in 1936 and the building continued as a Technical College until 2006 when it was relocated. Currently it is used as offices, a creche and a credit union.

All of Cookstown's main educational institutions date from this period, Cookstown High School being housed in the Victorian mansion and former residence of the Gunning family at Coolnafranky and the Catholic Church constructing its convent schools and St Mary's Boy's School in 1939 (now demolished and replaced by Holy Trinity Nursery School), all on Loy Hill.

With the outbreak of World War II, Cookstown became the centre of much regimental activity.[ citation needed ] Later, Killymoon was requisitioned by the United States Army, and a large [internment camp] was established at Monrush, where German prisoners of war were interned. Cookstown suffered no enemy damage during the war and the town's industries prospered.

However, this proved to be the last industrial belle époque of Cookstown. While the linen industry survived in Ulster until well into the 1960s, increased fabric imports from the Far East led to economic difficulties across Northern Ireland. Despite this, Cookstown's Council built a modern town hall in 1953 (now demolished and replaced by the Buranavon Theatre) and the Daintyfit clothing factory on Burn Road opened. An internationally renowned Agricultural College was established at Loughry House, but the town's prosperity was now in doubt. Gunning's weaving mill closed in 1956, and was followed by Adair's Mill and the Wellbrook estate in 1961. The railways ceased to operate in 1963, and while the market continued to be held each Saturday, its agricultural significance never recovered and the sale of livestock completely ceased in 2004. In 1970, the Blue Circle cement factory opened at Derryloran. This provided employment for the local population.

The sole remaining building of architectural note from this period was Liam McCormack's Chapel, a cube-shape tacked onto JJ McCarthy's High Victorian Gothic Convent of Mercy at Chapel Street. The patterned concrete and bronze façade was constructed in 1965 and contains important stained glass by Dublin artist Patrick Pye, though the building is currently boarded up following the closure of the Convent.

The Troubles

Through most of its history relatively good relations between Protestants and Catholics were maintained by almost equal numbers from both communities. But during the Troubles, Cookstown suffered from several bomb and other attacks, robbing the town centre of most of its Victorian buildings including the sandstone façade of the Hibernian Bank as well as the Adair's former Italianate residence at Glenavon (which had been converted to a hotel).

In 1989, two permanent armed checkpoints were erected at either side of the town centre to protect an already existing army base at Chapel Street. Barriers were also erected around the town so that the Main Street could be cordoned off in the evening. These checkpoints were finally removed from the town in 1996.

21st century

In 1994 the tree-lined boulevard thought up by James and William Stewart was restored and a scheme of regeneration saw the creation of green space, flowerbeds and restored shop frontage. The tree-lined boulevard is the basis of the towns fantastic festive Christmas lighting. With Ulster's industry now substantially defunct, the town began to attract instead financial investment from shopping and tourism. In 2000, the Burnavon Arts and Cultural Centre opened on the site of the former Town Hall on the Burn Road and began to attract large scale cultural and artistic events to the town whilst a year later, a development scheme began which saw the former LMS Railway Terminus turned into a retail park. In 2003 Cookstown District Council in conjunction with Cookstown Town Centre Forum launched Cookstown's ten-year Town Centre Regeneration Strategy and Action Plan which details a range of short, medium and long range regeneration actions.[ citation needed ]

Today[ when? ], Cookstown has been almost completely regenerated with plans for further regeneration work to be carried out throughout the town centre. Another large retail and office development on Molesworth Street was built in 2007 on the site of the former Market Yard. The old Gunning and Moore Weaving Mill at Broadfields has been transformed into a retail park. Plans were also passed for two more major retail and residential/ penthouse developments in the Orritor Street/ Burn Road area of the town. Further development is planned for the site of the former Daintyfit factory.[ citation needed ]

The town's central location and many hotels (for a population of just over 11,000 it has no less than 4) has meant that it is a location for conferences and meetings involving delegates from across Northern Ireland. It was the location for the Mid-Ulster Sports Arena (established in 2003) and the now cancelled planned Northern Ireland Community Safety College to accommodate the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue and the Northern Ireland Prison Service. Cookstown currently has more than a hundred types of businesses. Of the direct retailing businesses some two-thirds are independent, largely family-owned concerns which give the town's retailing a distinctive appearance. The town has taken a long-term view to regeneration and Cookstown District Council in conjunction with Cookstown Town Centre Forum appointed a Town Strategy Manager to implement Cookstown's Town Centre Regeneration Strategy.[ citation needed ]

Cookstown bills itself as the 'Retail Capital of Mid Ulster', through a brand identity (Cookstown – Looking Good, Looking Great) and aggressive marketing of the town locally and nationally. The town was also one of the first in Northern Ireland to produce a ten-year Urban Design Strategy (2007), an aspirational framework for all future town centre development. The Cookstown Town Centre Living Initiative (LOTS) Scheme (2006–2011) offers substantial grant assistance to reinvigorate unused or derelict space above shops into modern residential living accommodation is considered to be one of the most successful schemes of any town in Northern Ireland. The Cookstown Town Centre Street Entertainment Programme (2008–present) promotes the town's family-friendly appeal and encouraging people either to visit for the first time or to prolong a regular visit. While in late 2009 the civic heart of Cookstown, the Burn Road has benefited from an Environmental Improvement Scheme and now hosts outdoor events including the Cookstown Comedy Festival.[ citation needed ]

Cookstown District Council have continued to invest in the town, opening the Davagh Forest Trails- one of just 3 high spec mountain biking trails in Northern Ireland - in 2013.

Places of interest

Gortalowry House Gortalowry House, Cookstown - - 1622791.jpg
Gortalowry House
St Luaran's Church St Lauren's Parish Church, Cookstown - - 114801.jpg
St Luaran's Church
Church of the Holy Trinity Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Cookstown - - 108493.jpg
Church of the Holy Trinity


The following is a list of townlands within Cookstown's urban area, alongside their likely etymologies: [10]


Climate data for Lough Fea (225m elevation) 1981–2010
Average high °C (°F)5.8
Average low °C (°F)0.7
Average rainfall mm (inches)145.3
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm)19.315.818.814.613.713.414.615.614.918.118.017.9194.4
Source: [11]


In elections for the Westminster Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly it is part of the Mid Ulster constituency.

The local authority, Cookstown District Council, was established in 1973, and included part of County Londonderry, notably the villages of Moneymore, The Loup and Ballyronan.

As part of the Local Government Reform (NI) Cookstown District Council merged with Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council and Magherafelt District Council to form a larger Mid-Ulster District Council in 2015.

Notable inhabitants







19th century population

The population of the town increased during the 19th century: [12] [13]


Cookstown is classified as a medium town (i.e. with population between 10,000 and 18,000 people) by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). [14] :11

2011 Census

On census day (27 March 2011) there were 11,599 people living in Cookstown. Of these:

2001 Census

On census day (29 April 2001) there were 10,646 people living in Cookstown. Of these:


Primary schools

Secondary schools



The first community hub for primary care in the province is to be established in the town, backed by four local GP practices and the health board. It is to incorporate scanning facilities, a minor surgery suite, a pharmacy, out-of-hours consultations and community healthcare partnerships, with the possibility of developing supported living accommodation for older people. [16]

Cookstown Townland

The townland is situated in the historic barony of Dungannon Upper and the civil parish of Derryloran and covers an area of 217 acres. [17]

The population of the townland increased overall during the 19th century: [13] [18]


See also

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Dungannon Human settlement in Northern Ireland

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Dromore, County Tyrone Human settlement in Northern Ireland

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Carrickmore Human settlement in Northern Ireland

Carrickmore is a village in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. It lies in the centre of the county on a raised site colloquially called "Carmen"; between Cookstown, Dungannon and Omagh. An alias name for Carrickmore village is Termon Rock, Termonn being the first element of the parish name Termonmaguirk and rock referring to the rocky hill on which the village is situated. The McGurks were erenaghs or hereditary lay custodians of the parish's church lands. The site of the former parish church is adjacent to the village of Carrickmore. It is situated in the historic barony of Omagh East and the civil parish of Termonmaguirk. It had a population of 612 in the 2001 Census. In the 2011 Census 2,330 people lived in the Termon Ward, which covers the Carrickmore and Creggan areas.

Coagh Human settlement in Northern Ireland

Coagh is a small village in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, five miles (8 km) east of Cookstown. Part of the village also extends into County Londonderry. It had a population of 545 people in the 2001 Census. It owes its existence to George Butle Conyngham of Springhill, and was founded in 1728 when King George II of Great Britain granted Conyngham a market charter allowing the village to host four fairs yearly. It is situated within Mid-Ulster District.

Ballygawley, County Tyrone Human settlement in Northern Ireland

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Donaghmore, County Tyrone Place

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Richhill, County Armagh Human settlement in Northern Ireland

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Lissan House

Lissan House is a historic house and tourist attraction in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, that was the seat of the Staples baronets. Lissan lies nestled at the foot of the Sperrin Mountains amid ancient woodland near the historic market town of Cookstown.

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Killymoon Rangers Football Club are a Northern Irish football club that play in the Ballymena & Provincial League, Division II.

Dunnamore, formerly spelt Donamore, is a village and townland in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

Sandholes Rural hamlet in Northern Ireland

Sandholes is a small rural hamlet, located at a crossroads approximately 3 12 miles (5.6 km) south of Cookstown in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. The settlement is compact, with a modest range of services and community facilities. Existing dwellings are located within the core of the village and in small housing developments on the periphery. According to the 2011 census it has a population of 126 in 50 households.

Melanagh is an ancient Irish district in what is now north-eastern County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Melanagh along with Tarraghter were once part of the barony of Loughinsholin until the Plantation of Ulster, which saw them merged with the barony of Mountjoy.


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  2. Ulster-Scots guide to Beaghmore stone circles – Department of the Environment
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  11. "Climate Normals 1981–2010". Met Office. Retrieved 24 February 2021.
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  13. 1 2 "Census of Ireland 1891". Enhanced Parliamentary Papers on Ireland. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
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  15. NI Neighbourhood Information Service NISRA
  16. "£8m health village plan 'well advanced'". Mid Ulster Mail. 9 May 2018. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
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