Tilbury Fort is the best preserved example of 17th century military engineering in England. The fortifications are both offensive and defensive in purpose. The heavy guns were placed along the walls facing the Thames, where its width is suddenly reduced to about 800 yards (730mtr) and with batteries at Gravesend opposite, produced an effective crossfire on any hostile shipping. The guns that were used after the reconstruction of 1868 were 9in, 12-ton Rifled Muzzle Loaders. If you want to see what one of these guns looks like, please have a read of my Harwich page, with regards to the Redoubt Fort there.
The gun that is shown is is a left over from the 2nd World War.
April to September daily, 10am – 6pm
October 10am – 5pm
November to March 2004, 10am – 4pm
Closed for lunch 1 – 2pm during winter hours
Adult £3.00, Children £1.50, family ticket £7.50 (2 adults, 2 children) under 5’s free.
This site provides an audio tour with hearing loop included in admission price.
For the kids, if you wish to pay £1.30, they have a chance to fire an anti-aircraft gun. Speak to the people at the front desk, if you wish to arrange this.
Access to buildings: Via level cobbled surface, tarmac and gravel paths, and smooth grass. Level access to magazines, fort square and some underground workings. Seats available.
Exhibition: Level access.
Grounds: Steep slopes or steps to ramparts and some gun emplacements.
This is a view of the parade ground within the surround of the Fort. As you can see, it is a large area and in adverse weather, there is little or no protection. I really would advise only visiting this place on nice days!
The underground magazines were accessed by means of small, darkly lit tunnels. Although these magazines were originally all connected and ran through to two large rooms that was a detached magazine within the bastions of the fort, they are now blocked off at the end. Lights were not allowed in, or near, the magazines. The only lights that were allowed was in the passageway and even then, only being placed behind plate glass windows so that no naked flame penetrated to the ammunition.
This picture shows a representation of gun powder kegs that would have been stored in the room shown in the last picture.
The metal bands holding the barrels together would have been made of copper. Copper was used instead of iron because copper does not create sparks when scraped together. An important factor when dealing with gun powder!
This is one of the rooms that is situated below ground, immediately below the magazines shown in the last picture. On the right of the room in the ceiling, you can see a round hole. It was through this hole that munitions were passed up to the magazine above.
Beside each gun position was a small expense magazine for ammunition built in brick with a vaulted roof, which contained a lift shaft from the cartridge and shell magazines that were embedded in the walls below.
This is a view over the head of the River Thames from an artillery position. If you look closely, you can see a semi-circular rail set into the floor. The rear end of the gun had a small wheel on it which ran along this rail and was an aid to the gunners when they had to re-position the gun.
You can see how effective this Fort would have been in defending from enemy shipping by the view of the ship that is sailing through.
The original outline of the Fort was supposed to be in the shape of a five pointed star, with the tips of the points being in the shape of an arrowhead.
Unfortunately, Money ran out and only 4 points of the star were completed. The fifth side, over looking the entrance of the Thames, was merely fortified by huge banks of earth which effectively soaked up any barrage of fire from enemy shipping far more efectively than if the brick walls ever could have done.
This picture gives a good idea of why a star shape was used. From one side of the star, the defenders had a good view of the next point and any attackers had to endure a barrage of cross fire coming from both points.
The photo also gives a good indication on how wide the inner moat is that the attackers had to cross to get to the Fort.
The fort depended a great deal upon its water defences. There are two moats, inner and outer, which were crossed only by a double bridge on the north (landward) side of the Fort. The marshes beyond the moat could be flooded by opening water gates in the moat.
The first half of the bridge crossed across the first moat to a small island, which had a fortified triangular redoubt on it protecting the entrance, and had a drawbridge in the middle of it. The second half of the bridge led from the redoubt to the fort and had two drawbridges in it.
If you look carefully at the picture, you will see that the farthest drawbridge is up, effectively cutting off any approach to the triangular island and the Fort.
Within the main ammunition magazine. set in a large blockhouse in the parade ground, there is a room that contains information about Tilbury Fort and its history.