Paintings in Thurrock Museum

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The Thurrock museum collection includes a small number of paintings. Only one of these is regularly on display, but all of them can now be viewed on-line as part of the "Your Paintings" joint project between the BBC and the Public Catalogue Foundation. There are some topographical paintings of Thurrock in the collection, including paintings of:
  • Little Thurrock Rectory
  • The Titan Pit, Grays
  • The Globe Pit, Grays
  • Moore Place, Stanford le Hope
  • Tilbury Fort and ferry
  • The Harrow Inn, Bulphan
  • Belhus House and Park, c. 1710

There are also a number of portraits in the collection, including the Earl of Cork and Orrery and Sir Ion Hamilton-Benn by Sir Francis Whitmore and George Henry Silverwood, (Headmaster of Palmer's School) by Audrey Elfreda Shiner. There are also several portraits where the sitter is unknown.

Other subjects include ships and industrial machinery.

This painting of Belhus is on display in the gallery on the first floor of the museum. It provides a view of Belhus at the beginning of the 18th century. The Tudor mansion shown here was built by John Barrett who died in 1526. The house was later re-modelled by the 17th Lord Dacre, influenced by the gothic style, fashionable in the late 18th century. The painting also shows the formal gardens, close to the house with a wilderness area and deer park beyond. The grounds were subsequently landscaped by Capability Brown between 1752 and 1763.

The name, Belhus, came from the name of the manor, which in turn was derived from the Belhus family who originated in Ramsden Bellhouse.

This style of landscape painting was introduced into England in the late 17th century by artists from the Netherlands such as Jan Siberechts. Paintings in this style rapidly became popular with the landed gentry. The artist who painted this work is unknown, but it is stylistically similar to paintings by Siberechts.

The contents of the house (including this painting) were sold at an eight day sale in 1923. 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 house was demolished in 1957, although some of the foundations can still be seen on a golf course that was built on part of the park. Some of the original interior woodwork can be seen at Thurrock museum and others at Valence House, Dagenham. Some recently rediscovered heraldic glass is described in Panorama 36.

Belhus House and Park around 1710 after Jan Siberechts

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