With the rains abating for an afternoon I took the opportunity to get out and explore my own back yard, within the county of Essex. I had read that Tilbury Fort was supposedly one of the finest 17th century forts in Britain so headed out there with the family.
The present fort was constructed in 1672, replacing the original fort built by Henry VIII in the form of a smaller blockhouse. It has been adapted over the years to deal with various conflicts and wars.
What remains today is testament to the impressive design and build, but also because the fort actually saw very little action.
The grounds of Tilbury Fort are littered with artillery (see picture above). In the background the officers quarters can be seen, which are now curiously all privately owned and occupied.
The view between the gunpowder magazines, with the guard house and entrance to the left and the chapel to the right.
Below is a view from the North West Bastion across the parade ground with the nearby power station dominating the skyline. The foundations of the soldiers barracks can be clearly seen in the foreground, where they were cramped four to a room.
One of the guns on the South East Curtain pointing across the river to Gravesend. With the noise pollution of the fairgrounds and amusement park opposite, the direction of the gun seemed somewhat poignant.
The old wooden bridge leads to the Ravelin, a series of islands built to make any land based attack more difficult. Unfortunately this area is closed to the public.
In one of the ammunition storage rooms rows of shells are neatly arranged in readiness for action.
The narrow tunnels of the underground magazine, shell and cartridge stores in the West Bastion show why the fort made a perfect prison after the failed Jacobite rebellion of 1745.
Although there isn’t enough to keep you at the fort for a whole day, an afternoon visit is well worth a trip. Entry to Tilbury Fort will only cost you £4.50 for an adult or free if you are an English Heritage member.
There is a train station nearby or of course you can sail to Tilbury Docks just a cannon shot away!
By Si Salter