A History of Deer Management in Ireland

Posted: 3/9/2020

History of deer management in Ireland with special reference to the Glenarm Deer Parks 

by Terence Reeves-Smyth 

The managed exploitation of deer and its role in the history of the Irish landscape from prehistoric times is examined with particular reference to hunting and deer parks. Being the chief surviving physical manifestation of past deer management, deer parks were first introduced by the Normans, though they became a dominant feature in Ireland only during the 17th and 18th centuries, after which their numbers declined with the ascendance of fox hunting. One of the largest and best recorded of these parks, the 3,000-acre Great Deer Park at Glenarm, Co Antrim, is subject here to special attention.

Chris Lynn’s excavation of a mound in Deer Park Farms, Co Antrim, in 1984–87 revealed a long sequence of enclosed Early Christian period settlements, with associated houses and artefacts. It was undoubtedly one of most significant archaeological excavations to have been carried in Ireland out for a generation (Lynn & McDowell 2011). The site’s survival owed much to its fortuitous location within the boundary of the 17th-century Great Deer Park of Glenarm. Although dramatically reduced in size to around 800 acres at the start of the 19th century, this deer park originally extended to nearly 3,000 acres, and was one of the largest of over 500 deer parks known to have existed in Ireland.

originally published in the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, Vol 74, 2017–18

The earl of Meath’s foxhounds at Killruddery, Co Wicklow, looking west from Bray Head, c 1740. The house and 1680s formal gardens can be seen in the middle ground, while in the background is the deer park, traversed by rides, on the slopes of the Little Sugarloaf. The figures are cut-outs pasted onto the picture; the fox is on the left.

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