1991:001 - Antrim Castle Gardens, Antrim, Antrim

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Antrim Site name: Antrim Castle Gardens, Antrim

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number:

Author: Terence Reeves-Smith, 37 Chester Avenue, Whitehead, Co. Antrim BT38 9PQ

Site type: Formal gardens

ITM: E 714327m, N 866998m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.538428, -6.233286

In 1991-2 Antrim Borough Council received a large sum of money from the EC to ‘reconstruct’ a parterre in the late-17th/early-18th-century formal gardens at Antrim Castle. Excavations, carried out in September 1991, were focused upon the site of the supposed parterre – a two-acre rectangular enclosure, delimited by clipped yew and lime hedges, known as Massereene Park. These investigations, undertaken on behalf of the Borough Council, were intended to assist in locating paths and other features associated with the early garden layout.

Around 160 sq. m in ten trenches was opened in the Massereene Park area. It was found that the entire area had been very badly disturbed in the past with few features surviving. A succession of paths were found along the canal hedge, the earliest being composed of charcoal, coal and cinders.

An opening was also made in the ‘Grave Yard’, a small rectangular area delimited by clipped lime hedges lying between the canal and a woodland bosquet, known as ‘The Wilderness’. This enclosure was found to be relatively undisturbed and proved to have been an elaborate parterre in the late l7th-/early-l8th century. Stone edgings and paths with different coloured gravels were revealed. Almost certainly, this small enclosure is the site of a parterre described in the OS memoirs thus: ‘Some of the beds contain flowers but number-less little ones laid out in every variety of shape, enclosed by boxwood edging contain only gravel, each containing a different colour. In the centre of the parterre is a yew tree 14 feet high in the form of a obelisk’. In the future, a comprehensive excavation of this parterre will be carried out.