Coalhouse Fort

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Princess Margaret Rd, East Tilbury, United Kingdom
01375 844203
Coalhouse Fort - COALHOUSE FORT
Coalhouse Fort - COALHOUSE FORT
Coalhouse Fort - COALHOUSE FORT
Coalhouse Fort - COALHOUSE FORT moat with River Thames beyond it
Coalhouse Fort - COALHOUSE FORT minefield control tower
Coalhouse Fort - COALHOUSE FORT

Coalhouse Fort East Tilbury Reviews

AdamR3723 AdamR3723
192 reviews
Protecting London Oct 13, 2017
East Tilbury’s only thoroughfare continues downhill, almost to the north bank of the Thames. It ends at the car park for visitors to the Coalhouse Fort. During the early 15th century following an infiltration of the Thames by the French, King Henry IV allowed the inhabitants of East Tilbury, at that time classed as a ‘town’, to build defensive ramparts. In 1540, King Henry VIII ordered that a ‘blockhouse, be constructed at Coalhouse Point. This point on a curve in the Thames is so-named because by well before the 18th century coal was being unloaded from craft at this ferry point close to the village. The coal was transported westwards towards Grays and Chadwell along an ancient track known as the ‘Coal Road’.

In 1799, when it was feared that the French led by Napoleon Bonaparte would try to invade via the Thames, a new gun battery was built at East Tilbury. In the 1860s, when another French invasion was feared, a series of forts were built along the shores of the estuary of the Thames. One of these was the Coalhouse Fort at East Tilbury. Thus, the by then somewhat insignificant village became part of London’s defences.

The Fort was built between 1861 and ’74. Surrounded by a semi-circular moat and raised on a mound, the Fort is not particularly attractive. However, it is set in beautifully maintained parkland. From the slopes of the mound, there are great views of the Thames, which sweeps around the point, and its rural southern shore. The moat is separated into two sections by a short sharp-ridged stone wall, which was likely to have been built when the Fort began to be constructed.

When I looked for the Fort on old detailed (25 inch to the mile) Ordnance Survey Maps (pre-1939), the moat is marked, but the Fort is not – probably, in the interests of security. A ‘Coalhouse Battery’, which ran more-or-less parallel to the village’s only street was marked as “dismantled” on a 1938 map, but not the Coalhouse Fort.

The outer walls of the Fort have had all manner of later structures built on them: gun-emplacements, searchlight emplacements, and other shelters, whose functions were not obvious to me. There is a large concrete bunker outside the Fort, between it and the moat. Its shape might be described as three intersecting concrete blocks. This is marked on the tourist map as a ‘minefield control tower’. I believe that was it used to control electrically-fired mines in the estuary. Nearby and closer to the river, there is a smaller concrete bunker. The Fort’s interior was closed when I visited it, but I was able to get a peek through its main gates, which were open. Tramway tracks lead into the Fort. Old maps show that these led from the Fort to a small landing stage at Coalhouse Point, which is a short distance southwest of the Fort. The Fort ceased to be used after 1957.
6 / 6 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
starship1 says:
Congrats on having this review featured today, Adam :)
Posted on: Oct 19, 2017
Adam, congrats on your feature. Well done.
Posted on: Oct 19, 2017
planxty says:
Congratulations on the feature today of the excellently written review. I went down there one day many years ago and it was all shut for renovation, I never went back, perhaps I should!
Posted on: Oct 19, 2017
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