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Guarding between them the entrance to the Thames and London

Research by C. Tilbury

Not only the Ferry to & from Tilbury, but also the "Long Ferry" to London by "Tilt-boat"

'... of Richard II. a grant to the men of Gravesend and Milton, of the exclusive privilege of conveying passengers from thence to London, on the conditions that they should provide boats on purpose, and carry all persons either at two-pence per head, with his bundle, or the whole boat's fare should be four shillings.'

1792: "This charter has been confirmed by succeeding princes; and the boats which have been rendered, of late, very commodious, are obliged to depart for London at every flood, on the ringing of a bell for a quarter of an hour; the same ceremony is observed at their return from Billingsgate, at every ebb tide."

Gravesend, engraving dated 1811

The town in 1792 (Samuel Ireland)

"... famed for fish, filth, and asparagus"

"In the year 1380 this town was burned by the French and Spaniards, who came up the Thames in row gallies ... Henry VIII. to prevent a repetition of this outrage, raised a platform of guns to the east of the town, and erected Tilbury Fort on the opposite shore."

"All outward-bound ships are compelled to anchor in Gravesend-road, till they have been examined by the officers of the customs, and a centinel is placed at the Block-house below the town, to give notice when they are coming up the river by firing a gun; and here the outward-bound ships generally take in provision, an essential advantage to the mercantile class of inhabitants in this town."

"A little below Milton is a small Gothic building ... the remains of a church or religious house, now used as a barn: near which a new coal-wharf has been lately established, where coals are landed to avoid the port duty, a practice not uncommon on the Essex side of the river, though novel here, and from which the neighbouring country is supplied with that article, six-pence per bushel cheaper than at Gravesend."

Controlling shipping in 1797 (Pococke)

"The manner of stopping ships is this:
- As soon as the centinel sees a ship among those riding in the road, he fires his musquet, implying bring to;
- If no notice is taken he fires again, implying Why don't you bring to?
- If this is not attended to a third fire is discharged, meaning That if they bring not to immediately, they must be made.
- If the captain and crew continue obstinate, the gunner from the fort fires a gun loaded with powder.
Should this not have the desired effect, the gunner immediately fires a shot, which is a signal to Tilbury Fort to use all the force of which that garrison is capable; and the situation of that fort is such, that its guns can reach a ship at a great distance."

From "The Beauties of England & Wales" 1808

Gravesend (from the east)

"... the [Henry VIII) Battery at Gravesend has been suffered to run into complete ruin, and even its exact situation is not ... known ... a few guns ... kept up for defence ... till about the year 1778 when a new Battery, of sixteen guns was raised on the east side of the town, near the New Tavern ... Since that time, another Battery, of sixteen guns ... nearer the town."

"The Cod and Haddock fishery furnishes employment to about eighteen or twenty smacks belonging to Gravesend; and most of the Dutch turbot vessels lie off this town, and send their cargoes to the London market in small boats, &c. A Whale, measuring forty feet in length, was caught in the Thames, a short distance below Gravesend, in August, 1718; and in October, 1552, three great fish, called Whirle-pooles, were taken here, and drawn up to Westminster Bridge."

1764: a new Town Hall, with an open space beneath for the poultry market;
1767: a new wharf, crane, causeway made, with tolls for cranage and wharfage;
1773: Act for paving, cleansing & lighting principal streets;
c.1778: a disused shipbuilding yard was hired by Cleverly, a Quaker; several men of war - including L'Achille (80), Colossus (74), Director (64) - and frigates, smaller vessels, have since been built.

A small manufactory for cables and ropes is carried on; the majority of inhabitants are engaged in maritime pursuits or employments.

"Most of the East and West India trade ... outward-bound ships in general, are supplied with live and dead stock at Gravesend, and also with vegetables; about eighty acres ... cultivated for that purpose, and for supplying the London markets with asparagus, which is in particular request for its size, and fine flavour ... a continued influx of seamen, and strangers; the inns and public-houses ... numerous."

"In the summer ... a new Bathing House, erected in 1796, for the purpose of salt-waer bathing: ... for the season, one guinea; for the month, ten shillings."

Tilbury Fort
The Tilbury Ferry

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