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Coalhouse Fort, Tilbury

Historic Site · Tourist Spot
Coalhouse Fort is an artillery fort in the eastern English county of Essex. It was built in the 1860s to guard the lower Thames from seaborne attack. It stands at Coalhouse Point on the north bank of the river, at a location near East Tilbury which was vulnerable to raiders and invaders. It was the last in a series of fortifications dating back to the 15th century and was the direct successor to a smaller mid-19th century fort built on the same site. Constructed during a period of tension with France, its location on marshy ground caused problems from the start and led to a lengthy construction process. The fort was equipped with a variety of large-calibre artillery guns and the most modern defensive facilities of the time, including shell-proof casemates protected by granite facing and cast-iron shields. Its lengthy construction and the rapid pace of artillery development at the time meant that it was practically obsolete for its original purpose within a few years of its completion.

The fort's armament was revised several times during its 70 years of military use, as its role evolved in the river's defensive system. It was initially a front-line fortification, supported by Shornemead Fort and Cliffe Fort located to the south and east respectively on the Kent shore. Over time, as batteries and forts further downriver became the front line of the Thames defences, Coalhouse Fort was stripped of its main weapons and it was altered to support smaller quick-firing guns intended to be used against fast-moving surface and aerial targets. Its last military use was as a training facility for a few years after the Second World War.

Decommissioned in 1949, the fort was used as a storehouse for a shoe factory before it was purchased by the local council. The surrounding land was developed into a public park, but the fort itself fell into dereliction despite its historical and architectural significance. Since 1985 it has been leased to a voluntary preservation group, the Coalhouse Fort Project, which has been working to restore the fort and use it for heritage and educational purposes. It can be visited by the public on regular open days. It houses reconstructions, small military museums and open-air displays of military equipment. Funding for its restoration has been provided in part by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Warner Bros. film studio, which used the fort as a location for the opening scenes of the 2005 film Batman Begins.
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Coalhouse Fort reviews

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83 reviews
  • This is a lovely walk and has a little cafe to purchase some food/drink. Plenty of space for kids to ride a bike, skate, run free and there is a park but I would say it needs updating to be honest...  more »
  • The park is a beautiful scenic area with lots of open space. Is a great place to go crabbing and/or have a picnic. The toilets were unfortunately closed, we were with two young children so this is...  more »
  • A fabulous park set in an historic and well maintained natural setting. There is a free car park on site and a well stocked cafe for drinks, breakfasts and snacks. There are also unisex toilets and a visitor information centre. This park circles Coalhouse Fort itself, which is only open to the public on a limited basis - check their web site for details. The park does get much busier when the fort is open, especially when they hold themed days or classic car events. At other times it is very adequately provided with seating and walks for those who just want to explore the park itself.
  • A beautiful place to visit with dogs and children. Can do crabbing, bike rides and perfect for scooters on the flat smooth hills. The walks along the Thames to the other Fort are all scenic and clean and amazing views for miles. We had the best childhood memories here, and now with my own kids... STUNNING PLACE.

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