Built from basalt rubble, this bridge is one of the most picturesque features of the gardens and has survived relatively unchanged since it was constructed over 3 centuries ago. The bridge was the only link between the gardens and the extensive landscaped park beyond which originally extended south along the shores of Lough Neagh as far as the Dunore River.
This park had been created when the first Viscount Massereene, Sir John Clotworthy, obtained a licence from Charles II in 1665 to enclose 1000 acres for a deer park, but, as he died the same year, it appears that the work was carried out by his heir, Sir John Skeffington, 2nd Viscount Massereene.
In the 17th century its main function was to supply the household with venison, a much valued high status food, and the park was partially wooded with native oak interspersed with rough grazing. It was originally enclosed by a high stone wall or bank to prevent the deer escaping, but by the early 19th century it had been incorporated into the landscaped park.
A picturesque thatched hunting lodge known as Skeffington Lodge was built close to the centre of the park, and, after Antrim Castle was destroyed by fire in 1922, this cottage was upgraded to provide accommodation for members of the Massereene family.
1825 map of Antrim showing the enclosed Deer Park in the lower half of the landscaped park south of the Sixmilewater river and Antrim Castle
Photograph of Deer Park Bridge in the late 19th century taken by renowned photographer WA Green, who lived in Antrim at this time
Illustration of Deer Park Bridge from a book of condolence presented to Lady Massereene by the people of Antrim on the death of the 10th Viscount after a fall in the Pleasure Garden in 1863
Skeffington Lodge, a picturesque hunting lodge in the centre of the Deer Park which the Massereene family used after the Castle fire of 1922 and which later became the Deer Park Hotel