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Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:
Long canals, including cascade and round pond

Date of Construction:
1650 - 1699

Address :
Long Canals and Round Pond Antrim Castle Gardens Randalstown Road Antrim Co Antrim

Town Parks

Survey 2:

Date of Listing:
25/07/1983 00:00:00

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:
Garden Features

Former Use
Garden Features

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:
96-13 SE

IG Ref:
J1452 8709

Owner Category

Exterior Description And Setting

A formal arrangement of two long ornamental canals, bounded by high clipped hedges, running on a longitudinal north-south axis, but at different levels, connected by a small cascade, with a short spur canal running to the east off the longer lower canal, and a separate oval pond situated to the east of the cascade. Lower canal has concrete or smooth cement rendered ends, of curving form; upper canal has a concrete end of angled form, to the south, and a concrete or smooth cement rendered end, of curving form, to the north; inlet at north end of upper canal is formed by a short length of blue plastic pipe; spur canal has a grass edge to its east end; canals are otherwise grass edged, with a gravel path along each side, bounded by rising grass verges bordered with hedges; lime hedges to lower canal, and hornbeam hedges to upper canal. Cascade constructed of smooth granite blocks. Circular pond, oval in shape, is edged with grass. In the centre is a small artificial island, of basalt rocks covered with plantings, added in the late 19th century. SETTING: The canals and pond are an integral part of the overall gardens of Antrim Castle and sit within a heavily wooded part of those gardens, immediately surrounded by grassed areas thick with trees, and cut through with paths and drainage ditches, except for a large rectangular area to the western side of the lower canal, laid out with parterres, and a much smaller rectangular burial ground (HB20/08/002) to the eastern side south of the spur canal. The oval pond stands in a glade approached from both north and south along a broad lime avenue. At the southern end of the lime avenue are the remnants of a walled garden, which includes flights of steps and some portions of walls; to the west of that is an early medieval motte which was transformed into a garden feature probably in the early 18th century with a spiral path cut around it leading up to the top. To the west of the motte are the remains of Antrim Castle itself (HB20/08/001); to the north-west of that is an 18th century stone bridge, Deerpark Bridge (HB20/08/003); to the north-west of that is an early Victorian stable block, Clotworthy House, now an arts centre (HB20/08/004), with outbuildings known as the Castle Farm standing immediately to the north of that. The southern boundary of the gardens is formed by the Sixmilewater River with some portions of old stone walls remaining; the eastern boundary is formed by a modern rubble stone wall bounded by a new extension of Dublin Road; the western boundary is formed by the fence of a military camp which has been established within part of the original demesne; the northern boundary is formed by a rubble stone wall facing Randalstown Road. The main entrance to the gardens is by a driveway from Randalstown Road, through a pair of newly erected piers flanking the driveway set in a short distance from the main road, and topped by a pair of stone pineapples which had previously been situated in the burial ground within the gardens; driveway proceeds to a car park beside Clotworthy House, and also directly to the Deerpark Bridge, with a branch off to the motte. There are also pedestrian entrances to the gardens from Dublin Road.


Not Known

Historical Information

The precise date of the laying out of the formal arrangement of garden features at Antrim Castle is not recorded, but it is in 17th century style and may be supposed to date from probably the late 17th century, or the early 18th century at the latest: in 1758 a well-known commentator of the time, known as Mrs Delany, visited Antrim Castle and noted that "the garden was reckoned a fine one forty years ago – high hedges and long narrow walks", which tells us that the garden was already in its prime as early as 1718. An artist's sketch of c 1820 shows the general form of the long canal, while the OS map of 1832 gives a very clear indication of the overall layout of the gardens by the early 19th century, with the lower canal and its eastern spur, and the circular pond, all shown as they are now, while the upper canal was shown at that time as a much narrower channel than at present. The 'Ordnance Survey Memoirs' of the 1830s provides a description of the gardens in general – "The 'Wilderness' is at once unique and curious in its arrangement being a perfect specimen of the French style of gardening in the 17th century" – and details of particular features, including the canals and circular pond, as follows – "The grounds are also ornamented by some beautiful ponds. One of these is 220 yards long and 10 yards broad, a walk and a splendid lime hedge 18 feet high extends along each side of it. There are two other ponds which are circular, the largest of these is 186 yards in circumference". The long pond described here is the present lower canal, while the larger circular pond referred to is the present circular pond. The OS map of 1832 also depicts a smaller circular pond, lying to the south-east of the larger one, but only the outline of it remains today. The OS map of 1857 shows a third circular pond, smaller still, just to the north of the small spur canal, but it has now disappeared from the site. The OS map of 1857 also shows the present upper canal as a narrow channel but the OS map of 1921 shows it in its present form; McComb in 1861 referred to 'broad water canals', so that it may be presumed that the upper canal was widened around 1860. Other features of the gardens dating from at least the early 19th century were a small parterre on the east side of the lower canal, later transformed into the present burial ground (HB20/08/002), probably in the 1860s; a 'kitchen garden' on the west side of the lower canal, originally laid out with a cruciform and diagonal arrangement of paths as shown on the OS map of 1832, then cleared along with its 'small hothouse' to form a large open area as shown on the OS map of 1857, being used as a sports field in recent decades, and then finally relaid as a parterre in a restoration scheme in the 1990s, but with a different geometric configuration from previously; an early medieval earthen mound or motte, situated close to the castle, which was described in the 1830s as "planted with a variety of trees and shrubs" and with a "well-constructed spiral walk" leading to its summit; and the 'terrace gardens' to the east of the motte. These latter contained a range of flower beds, "raised 9 feet above the adjacent ground" with a high wall enclosing them from a kitchen garden in the centre and a lower wall separating them from the grounds on the outside, with a number of glasshouses added by the 1850s, but much of this all destroyed in the 1970s when the new by-pass public road was built, leaving little but the remnant of a brick wall standing today. Also present in the early 19th century gardens were offices and stables just north of the castle which were cleared away around 1840; a 6-arched 18th century stone bridge to the north-east of that, the present Deerpark Bridge (HB20/08/003); and farm buildings to the north of that, a small portion of which still remain. Later came the new coach house and stables, known as Clotworthy House (HB20/08/004), of c 1840, connected to the farm buildings; a rockery garden along the river bank between the castle and the Deerpark Bridge, which appears on the OS map of 1857, and still remains but in a derelict condition; and a memorial and burial ground laid out from around the 1860s on what had been a small parterre on the eastern side of the lower canal. From at least as early as the early 19th century these gardens were open to the public as the Ordnance Survey Memoirs recorded in the 1830s: "The grounds are kept in the nicest order. The public are admitted to them and the castle at all times, and it is much visited by strangers. The people of Antrim enjoy a most agreeable privilege in having at all times access to the delightful walks about the castle, and they are much frequented by them". The original late 17th century to early 18th century formal layout had survived into the early 19th century due to the circumstances and vicissitudes of the Massereene family during the second half of the 18th century, which meant that they were not replaced in the more natural informal style that had become fashionable in garden design almost everywhere else, and by the Victorian period their formal style was back in fashion. Thus its eventual survival as a unique example of its type and date in Northern Ireland, with only one counterpart anywhere else in Ireland, that is at Killruddey in Co Wicklow. With the destruction of Antrim Castle itself in 1922 and the retreat of the family to the stable block for the next half-century, there was no further development within the gardens which were allowed to deteriorate in condition until the gradual realisation of recent years that they represented a rare historical amenity which was in urgent need of conservation promoted the commencement of a long-term programme of restoration in 1992 following on from statutory listing in 1983. References – Primary Sources 1. OS Map 1832, Co Antrim 50. 2. OS Map 1857, Co Antrim 50. 3. OS Map 1921, Co Antrim 50. Secondary Sources 1. Lady Llanover ed., The Autobiography and Correspondence of Mary Granville, Mrs Delany (London, 1861), Vol III, p 517 (Mrs Delany's observations of 1758). 2. Original illustration by the English amateur artist Sir Philip Crampton depicting the long canal, walk, and high hedge c 1820, in the possession of Desmond Fitzgerald, the Knight of Glin, in 1993. 3. Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland, Vol 29: Parishes of County Antrim XI, 1832-3, 1835-9 (Belfast, 1995), pp 11-12, 36, 49. 4. J.B. Doyle, Tours in Ulster: a handbook to the antiquities and scenery of the north of Ireland (Dublin, 1854), p 119. 5. C.H. O'Neill, Antrim Castle, reprinted from the Dublin University Magazine (Dublin, 1860), p 32. 6. W. McComb, McComb's guide to Belfast, the Giant's Causeway, and adjoining districts (Belfast, 1861), p 50. 7. UAHS, Antrim and Ballymena (Belfast, 1969), p 8. 8. W.D. Girvan, 'The Forgotten Garden', Ulster Garden Handbook (1974), p 80. 9. E. Malins and The Knight of Glin, Lost Demesnes: Irish Landscape Gardening 1660-1845 (London, 1976), p 13. 10. M. Bence-Jones, Burke's Guide to Country Houses, Vol 1: Ireland (London, 1978), p 6. 11. E. Malins and P. Bowe, Irish Gardens and Demesnes from 1830 (London, 1980), p 34. 12. UAHS, Northern Gardens: Gardens and Parks of Outstanding Historic Interest in Northern Ireland (Belfast, ND), pp 6, 9, 11, 13 (but the illustration on p 9 is from OS map 1857, not OS map 1833 as stated). 13. A. Smyth, The Story of Antrim (Antrim, 1984), p 49. 14. B. Jupp, 'Antrim Castle Gardens', Moorea, Vol 10, 1993, pp 28-34.

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style D. Plan Form J. Setting K. Group value

Historic Interest

V. Authorship W. Northern Ireland/International Interest Z. Rarity


This is a garden complex of two long canals and an oval pond in a formal arrangement whose layout was established in probably the late 17th century, following continental European prototypes, which, together with other associated elements stands not only as an important local public amenity but also represents a unique survival of its type and date in Northern Ireland, and is paralleled in only one other garden anywhere else in Ireland.

General Comments

1. The starting point for the long canal is J1452 8688 and the finishing point is J1452 8719; the circular pond is at J1461 8709.

Date of Survey

06 November 2004