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TILBURY FORT IN THE 18TH & 19TH CENTURIES
From engravings and books

 
Henry VIII's fort (1539); Elizabeth I's block-house; Charles II's 1667 construction

"In the year 1380 [Gravesend] was burned by the French and Spaniards, who came up the Thames in row gallies, and committed this outrage in return for the ravage and plunder of the English army in France."

"Henry VIII. to prevent a repetition ... raised a platform of guns to the east of the town, and erected Tilbury Fort on the opposite shore, which has been since improved as a regular fortification from a plan of Sir Martin Beckman, chief engineer to Charles II."

(Samuel Ireland, 1792)

 

The course of the Thames as drawn in 1792

 

The same 1792 publication offered this illustration of the Fort and moorings.
The flag flies from the old block-house, not yet removed.

 

The water front and gate as depicted in 1809

From "London: Being an Accurate History and Description of the British Metropolis" by David Hughson (1809)

"The foundation is laid upon piles driven down two an end of one another, so far, till they were assured they were below the channel of the river, and that the piles, which were shod with iron, entered into the solid chalk rock, adjoining to the chalk hills on the other side. The works on the land side are complete; the bastions are faced with brick. There is a double ditch or moat, the innermost of which is one hundred and eighty feet broad; a good counterscarp, and a covered way marked out, with ravelins and tenailles; but they have not been completed.

On the land side there are two small redoubts of brick; but the chief strength of this fort on the land side consists in being able to lay the whole level under water, and so make it impossible for an enemy to carry on approaches that way.

On the side next the river, is a very strong curtain, with a noble gate called the Watergate in the middle, and the ditch is pallisadoed. At the place where the water bastion was designed to be built, and which, by the plan, should run, wholly out into the river, so as to flank the two curtains on each side, stands an high tower, which, they tell us, was built in queen Elizabeth's time, and was called the Block House. Before this curtain is a platform in the place of a counterscarp, on which are planted one hundred and six cannon, generally carrying from twenty-four to forty-six pound ball; a battery so terrible, as to shew the consequence of that place: besides which, there are smaller pieces planted between them; and the bastions and curtains also are planted with guns; so that they must be bold who venture in the biggest ships to pass such a battery, if the men appointed to serve the guns do their duty."

 

A view of the Fort from the river as vessels entered the righthand bend from the estuary.
Publication of 1811.

"This view is taken from the river; — the chapel appears on the left hand — the causeway under the principal gate is for the king's troops only — the suttling-house adjoins — the next causeway is for ordinary purposes — the block-house, now a powder-magazine, is seen behind the vessels — the gunpowder wharf is extended into the river for the purpose of receiving it into the fort at all times of the tide; at its extremity is seen the crane, and beyond that the flag-staff battery. The river, at this place, is about three quarters of a mile wide, and in the view is seen under the influence of a fresh breeze, with vessels working down the river, the small Gravesend boats are making up for passengers, whom they are privileged to bring on shore."

"The greatest inconvenience ... a scarcity of good water. Here is no spring or well of fresh water, and the garrison depends, for supply, on rain, which is collected, from the roofs of the houses, into reservoirs, and pumped from the same when occasion requires; but in dry summers, when the garrison is full of soldiers, it is conveyed by water carriage from Gravesend."

"The barracks for the soldiers are capable of receiving three hundred men ... chiefly occupied by recruits, who daily arrive from London, and the northern parts of the kingdom, particularly from Scotland. After being examined and approved by the general of the district, they are sent on board a transport, hired for the puspose of conveying them to the grand depot in the Isle of Wight; and from thence they are distributed into their respective regiments in the east and West Indies."

&A detachment of soldiers, from Chatham, under the command of a lieutenant, amounting to fifty rank and file, mount guard, and are changed every month. For ... keeping the batteries in good order ... six invalid artillery-men, under the command of a master gunner. But the principal use of the fort, at this time, consists in its being a grand powder magazine. The buildings are bomb-proof, and contain many thousand barrels filled with ball- cartidges; from them the fleet and army are conveniently supplied."

 

One publication descibed this as "the back of the Fort" - although ships are seen on the river.
It may be a view from the side, (or an artist's impression)?, with the two goats and the fishing boat, soldiers.
Print dated 1831.
 


Inscription above the entrance:
"Carolus II. Rex. A. Reg. 34."
From "Ode to a Soldier of Tilbury Fort" 1794
 
POOR SOLDIER, after many a dire campaign,
Drawn mangled from the gory hills of slain,
Perhaps the soul of Belisarius thine ;
Why with a tatter'd coat along the shore,
Where Ocean seems to heave a pitying roar,
Why do I see thee thus neglected pine ?
 
Poor wretch ! along the sands condemn'd to go,
And join a hungry dog, or famish'd cat,
A pig, a gull, a cormorant, a crow,
In quest of crabs, a muscle, or a sprat !
 
Now, at Night's awful, pale, and silent moon,
Along the beach I see thee lonely creep,
Beneath the passing solitary moon
A spectre stealing 'mid the world of sleep.
 
Griev'd at thy channell'd cheek, and hoary hair,
And quiv'ring lip, I mark thy famish'd form,
And hollow jellied orbs that dimly stare,
Thou piteous pensioner upon the storm.
- - -
Sad vet'ran ! is that coat thy ragged All ?
Sport of the saucy winds and soaking rain !
For this has Courage fac'd the flying ball ?
For this has bleeding Brav'ry press'd the plain ?

1878:

"Surgeon-major Faught (in Army Medical Reports) recorded that the artillery quartered at Tilbury Fort generally suffered more or less from ague; but the people at the railway station, and the coastguard and their families in the ship lying just outside the fort, never suffer from malarious poisoning."
 

Photos of Tilbury Fort

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