Back in the spring of 1923 one of Essex’s oldest and most magnificent houses held an auction.

Ancestral portraits, tapestries, armour, ornate furniture and rare china were just some of the items that went under the hammer.

Over the course of eight days 1,600 lots emptied historic Belhus House in Aveley of its generations of contents.

The sales raised a total of £19,187 – or about £750,000 in today’s money.

In the run up to the auction the Southend and Country Pictorial newspaper gave readers a rare insight into some of the Tudor building’s amazing treasures, which would be sold off to the highest bidder, and you can see many of these in our photo gallery.

Belhus House had been built in 1526 by the Barrett family.

The family had owned the estate since 1346 and their land-holdings were such that they were the most important family in the Aveley and South Ockenden area.

Apart from the demolition of the substantial gatehouse in 1710, the house underwent no major changes until the 17th Lord Dacre, Thomas Barrett-Lennard indulged in some fashionable ‘gothic-isation’ between 1744-1777. He installed a new entrance hall with panelling featuring pointed gothic arches and also built Flemish early Renaissance doors and surrounds. In addition, Capability Brown was commissioned in 1754 to redesign the gardens.

As times changed however, the house fell into disrepair and by the 1920s – at the time of the auction – it was on its last legs. The Second World War effetvively finished off the house and it was eventually demolished.

Today only a faint trace of its foundations remain. Its spectacular and valuable contents which were auctioned off, however, have survived all over the world.

The most sought-after paintings at the auction were a number of works by Anthony van Dyck, as well as works by Sir Peter Lely.