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TILBURY FORT

ALTERNATIVE NAME:  WEST TILBURY BLOCKHOUSE
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Tilbury Fort was built in 1670 by order of Charles II, replacing an earlier artillery blockhouse, known as West Tilbury Blockhouse. This was built in 1539 by Henry VIII as part of his chain of coastal defences and defended the approach to London and the dockyards at Woolwich and Deptford. The blockhouse was refortified after 1588 and maintained during the English Civil War. After the Restoration in 1660, Charles II began a complete reorganisation of the national defences which included building a new fort and coastal battery at Tilbury. Two powder magazines were added in 1716, officers' quarters in 1772 and other alterations were carried out in the late 19th century. A First World War heavy anti aircraft battery was established at the fort in 1916. During the Second World War the fort initially housed the operations room which controlled the anti-aircraft defences of the Thames and Medway (North) Gun Zone, until 1940 and a pillbox was also established there. The fort remains substantially unaltered to this day and is one of the best examples of its kind in England. Since 1948 it has been in the guardianship of the Ministry of Works and there is now a museum at the site.

West Tilbury Blockhouse was two-storeys high and D-shaped. The rounded side faced the river and was pierced with gun-ports to provide covering fire. After 1588, the building was encircled by a ditch and counterscarp bank.

The 1670 Tilbury Fort was designed by Charles II chief engineer, Sir Bernard de Gomme, and based on principles pioneered in the Low Countries. It is pentagonal in plan, with arrowhead-shaped bastions projecting from four of the angles. A brick-built curtain wall encloses and links the bastions and the pentagonal area within the ramparts is known as `The Parade' which contained the barracks and powder magazines. The outer defences surrounding the landward sides of the fort are elaborate and include a broad terrace, or berm, two moats and a number of defensive structures.

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