In 1999 Thurrock Museum were able to put on display for the first time a truly Thurrock painting, probably commissioned by the Barrett-Lennard family in the 18th Century of their Belhus Mansion at Aveley.
This large oil painting which has been in store with the Essex Record Office since 1947, was thought to be a 19th century copy, based on the birds-eye view engraving thought to be by the Dutch engraver J Kip, for the book of engravings of English country houses published as "Britannia Illustrata".
The picture shows, in the foreground, the large gatehouse which was demolished about 1710, within the brick wall curtilage are a number of decorative formal gardens, some with associated water features and small buildings and kitchen garden around the main house. These were removed during the landscaping of the 1740s and 1750s by Capability Brown. The stables and coach house can be seen and in the landscape behind other houses are shown.
The picture was listed as Lot 990 in the 'Belhus' sale catalogue for May 15th 1923 where it is described as 'Large view of the Mansion and Gardens of Belhus as it existed c. 1710 with extensive landscape background. Painter unknown'. It is not known if it was sold at that time, but likely not and probably remained in the house.
The date of the oil painting remains a mystery; it is suggested it may have been painted for the Barrett - Lennards in the nineteenth century but close examination of the materials used should help to establish a date. It should be noted that Victoria County History, Vol. 8, page 6 refers to a mid 17th Century oil painting showing the gatehouse reproduced in 'Belhus' ed. I. G. Sparkes - but had the VCH researchers seen the original? It seems this could be that painting?
The painting however expands the collection of Belhus Mansion material at Thurrock Museum, witch includes photographs and objects from the house when it was demolished post second world war.
If you visit the Thameside Complex, you will discover in the main stair well leading up to the Museum Gallery, you will see the Belhus Mansion fire place and the gallery has two cases with Belhus Mansion items and photographs.