Park houses hundreds of years of history

  Posted: 05.08.21 at 22:56 by Susan Yates

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IN the latest of her articles on local history, Thurrock Nub News correspondent Susan Yates turns the spotlight in this article on one of he borough's parks.

Belhus Park made news last month when it was revealed that archeological investigations have unearthed the remnants of historic gardens.

Sue is a frequent visitor to the park and looks back at its origins.

I AM sure that we are all aware of listed buildings, scheduled ancient monuments and places
of special scientific interest but how many people know about Registered Parks.

Thurrock has only one registered park - that is Belhus Park located between Kenningtons Estate on its western boundary, Aveley village on its southern boundary, the Belhus Estate on its Eastern boundary and Belhus Woods Country Park on its northern boundary.

It was much bigger than it is now as the Kennington Estate formed part of the park with the land to the south of Shannon Way being parkland and the land on the north side being farm land. It covered more than 2,000 acres in all.

Belhus Manor was originally called Manywares, after its owner John Manywares, then de
Nortons after the de Norton family.

When Elizabeth de Norton daughter of Richard married Thomas de Belhus son of Nicholas it became Nortons de Belhus and ultimately just Belhus.

In 1398 John Barrett son of Robert Barrett from Hawkhurst, Kent courted Alicia de Belhus daughter of the above and by 1401 they were married. Belhus Mede was given to them as a
wedding gift. The Park was created by the Barrett/Barrett-Lennard family from 1401 to 1923.

The house as we would recognise it today was built between 1523 and 1525 by John Barrett
to house his ever increasing family. Nobody is sure of the site of the original house.

The park as we know it today came in to being in the time of Edward Barrett, who was by far the most succesful Barrett.

In 1618 he obtained a licence to create a park. The beautiful estate map of 1619, which is in Essex Record Office, and is a work of art in my opinion, shows an elaborate parterre garden. A parterre garden is a garden occupied by an ornamental arrangement of flower beds. It also featured a wilderness and a rock garden.

Edward was very successful in his chosen career but still found time to add the farms of Courts and Kenningtons to enlarge his estate.

In December 1618 Edward was granted by the Crown the Right of Free Warren. This is a royal franchise granted to a manorial lord allowing the holder to hunt small game (rabbit, hare, pheasant and partridge) within a designated area.

Edward stocked the park with 300 deer making it one of the finest herds of deer in the country. The park was also stocked with Herons which can still be seen in the area today, and these were hunted by the Goshawks and the Peregrine Falcons.

On the death of Edward, who died without issue, the estate passed to Richard Lennard on condition that he adopted the Barrett name. The park and house then became neglected and
allowed to fall in to a state of disrepair. It wasn’t until Thomas Barrett-Lennard, 17th Lord Dacre, inherited the estate in 1744 that the house was Gothicised and that further improvements were made to the grounds.

He employed Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown to landscape the parkland between 1753 and 1763. This took the form of planting The Shrubbery on the western boundary, which still exists today amongst other works. This was Brown’s first job in Essex.

In 2021 the majority of the park is turned over to a public golf course. Long term local residents will tell you it is still possible to recognise some of the ‘Capability’ Brown plantings that adorn the golf course. Brown received more than £650 for his work here. Lord Dacre did have plans for a water feature which had to be shelved because of lack of finances.

However, he did employ Richard Woods who it is said designed the Long Pond for £175 in 1770/71. Today the Long Pond is split in two by the M25. The eastern most section is surrounded by the Ash Plantation and the Oak Plantation. Just west of the northern most part of the Long Pond is the Stench Pole which is Grade II listed. It is a tall octagonal Tudor style chimney of red brick with black dressings in an elaborate pattern. Also Grade II listed are the walls of the Kitchen Gardens. These are at the end of Irvine Gardens and form part of the current eastern boundary. They were created in 1744.

Standing north-west of the old kitchen garden walls are the woods where we find the remains of the mid-18th century Ice House which it is believed was constructed during the time ‘Capability’ Brown was landscaping the park.

At the end of the 19th century the park had seven acres of water, several small ponds, oak, elm,
lime and beech trees. The park by this time consisted of 300 acres with 100 fallow deer as
well as horses, cattle and sheep. The park is now a golf course with a club house named after Capability Brown.

It has a swimming pool and fitness centre as well as several football pitches and large open areas and plenty of woodlands making it a dog walkers paradise. In 2015/6 a part of the park was sold to Aveley Football Club for their new football ground, Parkside. This replaced the area once used by Thurrock Model Airplane Club.

The park is still well used especially during the virus lockdown.

I have walked this park for over 65 years and was fortunate enough to see the old mansion before it was demolished in May 1957. I have often imagined what it must have been like in
its glory days so the recent survey work which revealed the Tudor/Jacobean gardens was
amazing to me and just another chapter in the history of this special place which deserves to
be cared for.

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