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Tilbury Fort, Tilbury

#1 of 12 in Parks in Thurrock
Must see · Park · Military Facility
Tilbury Fort, also known historically as the Thermitage Bulwark and the West Tilbury Blockhouse, is an artillery fort on the north bank of the River Thames in England. The earliest version of the fort, comprising a small blockhouse with artillery covering the river, was constructed by King Henry VIII to protect London against attack from France as part of his Device programme. It was reinforced during the 1588 Spanish Armada invasion scare, after which it was reinforced with earthwork bastion, and Parliamentary forces used it to help secure the capital during the English Civil War of the 1640s. Following naval raids during the Anglo-Dutch Wars, the fort was enlarged by Sir Bernard de Gomme from 1670 onwards to form a star-shaped defensive work, with angular bastions, water-filled moats and two lines of guns facing onto the river.

In addition to protecting the Thames, in the 18th century Tilbury also began to be used a transit depot and for storing gunpowder. It continued to be essential for the defence of the capital and a new artillery battery was added in the south-east corner during the Napoleonic Wars. The fort became increasingly less significant as a defensive structure, however, as military technology developed in the 19th century. It was redeveloped to hold heavy artillery after 1868, providing a second-line of defence along the river, but further changes in technology meant that it had become obsolete by the end of the century. Instead Tilbury became a strategic depot, forming a logistical hub for storing and moving troops and materiel throughout the First World War. The fort had only a limited role in the Second World War and was demobilised in 1950.

Tilbury Fort is now operated by the charity English Heritage Trust as a tourist attraction, receiving 16,154 visitors in 2014. Many of the more modern military features were demolished during the 1950s, with further restoration work taking place during the 1970s ahead of the site opening to the public in 1983. The 17th-century defences are considered by the historian Paul Pattison to be the "best surviving example of their kind in Britain", and the fort includes the only surviving early 18th century gunpowder magazines in Britain.
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Tilbury Fort reviews

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264 reviews
  • Short visit to walk around to improve health Lovely gentle walk and great place to visit. Guess better yo go when its open!  more »
  • Having joined English Heritage due to travel constraints, it is good to make the most of the membership. This is a well maintained fort on the banks of the Thames. The excellent audio guide enables...  more »
  • So much to learn about and explore in this amazingly preserved and open fort. Be amazed at the weird geometrical layout of the fort, and discover why is was so innovative. Enjoy the hands on with the model bridge and the actual WW2 gun placement. Great audio tour with useful displays, parts of the site are almost perfectly preserved, others are just outlines on the ground, with a large site to walk and clamber around: it all combines well to a solid family outing. In the sunshine it is spectacular, I bet though that in the rain it would not be difficult to imagine how exposed the fort is.
  • Great place for seeing some artillery history. A big collection of guns and well restored magazine and fortifications. It'd be nice if all the guns were maintained a bit better, maybe the local reserve unit could help there.

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