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Coalhouse Fort

Hob Uid: 413479
Location :
Thurrock
Non Civil Parish
Grid Ref : TQ6907076570
Summary : Coalhouse Fort is a remarkably well preserved late 19th century fort built on the recommendation of the Royal Commission on the Defence of the UK in 1860. Built on the site of a D-shaped artillery castle built in 1539, it is one of the finest examples of an armoured casemate fort in England and represents the third fort to stand on the site. The first phase of the Fort, begun in 1799, was replaced in 1847-55 by a more complex structure which was in turn superceded by the present buildings between 1861-74. In 1903 Coalhouse Fort was refortified with 5-6 feet of concrete placed on top of the 1860 battery roof - structural strengthening to support the weight of new guns. By the start of the First World War the primary defence line for the estuary had moved down river. The invasion scare of 1940 brought a new lease of life and the Fort was re-occupied again responding to a perceived threat of German invasion by sea. There were high expectations for the Fort in the Second World War but eventually the Home Guard took over in 1943. After a brief period as a naval training centre the fortification was decommissioned and used for storage by the local Bata Shoe Company. In 1962 Thurrock Borough Council took over the responsibility of the building from the Ministry of Defence for development as a riverside amenity. Conservation of the Fort started in 1983, and it was consolidated into the Coalhouse Fort project in 1985. The Coalhouse Fort Project Management Committee are hoping that most of the barrack block can be restored, including replacing roofs and floors, to provide interpretation of rooms such as the Cell block, the canteen and living quarters as they would have been in 1860, the Great War or the Second World War.
More information : TQ 690778. Coalhouse Fort (NAT) (1)

The latest of a line of fortifications dating back to Henry VIII, who in 1539 ordered a blockhouse to be erected at E Tilbury. This was replaced by another blockhouse closer to the river which by 1735 had been inundated by the sea and was in ruins. In 1795 a battery with surrounding ditch was built on the present site only to be replaced by Coalhouse Fort built in 1869. (2-3)

One of three batteries constructed under the requirements of The Royal Commission of 1856 for the defence of the mouth of the Thames. Coalhouse fort was completed in 1874. It comprised, a single tier of armoured gun emplacements, an open battery and a barrack block at the rear of the batteries. Dry and wet ditches defended the landward side of the fort. Twenty RML guns of 9", 11" and 12.5" calibre were installed in the fort.

Coalhouse was rebuilt in 1903 to take modern 6" and 12 pounder (quick firing guns). These were mounted in concrete emplacements on top of the 1874 gun positions. Electric searchlight emplacements were added later. During the First world War the fort was used as an Examination Battery.

By 1940 all the weapons had been removed. With the threat of invasion the fort was quickly rearmed with 5.5" guns that had been removed from HMS Hood. The fort was redesignated an Emergency (Anti invasion) Battery. In 1946 the fort was handed over to the Admiralty for training Sea Cadets. The fort is now derelict and the area has been landscaped into a park. (4-5)

The work of restoring the late Victorian armoured casement fortifications have concentrated on repairs to the main battery roof. Stabilisation of all the main buildings on the roof is underway, after which work will move into the first floor casemented rooms. Excavation in the parade ground will be undertaken to locate the two previous battery phases of 1855 and 1799. The earliest blockhouse of 1539 lies near to the foreshore, but it is hoped that a trial trench will locate this. (6)

Excavation formed part of the Phase I restoration of the curtain wall dry ditch, the defensive system of the 1874 armoured casement construction. A possible 1st/2nd World War concrete hardstanding for light field guns was located at a high level. Much late 19th and early 20th Century pottery, glass and other finds have been recovered, including the fuses for rifled muzzle loading guns. An 1874 Hong Kong bronze coin might suggest at least one of the gunners had seen foreign service. (7-8)

Scheduled as a remarkable group of defensive sites. Additional features of the complex include a battery for Quick-Firer guns built in 1893 near the waterfront, a rifle range and a World War II low-level radar tower, one of only three in the country surviving in this condition. (9)

Additional article on the 1861 phase of the fort;s development. (10)

This record has been recast under the following references:
The Henrician blockhouse - 1378614 (TQ 67 NE 83)
The QF battery - 1375114 (TQ 67 NE 80)
The radar tower - 1375139 (TQ 67 NE 81)
The jetty - 1375151 (TQ 67 NE 82)

The foreshore at Coalhouse Point ahd the QF battery were surveyed by English Heritage in October-November 2000. For full details of survey report and archive plans contact the National Monuments Record. (11)

Listed as mounting 5.5-inch guns in 1941. (12-13)

See the 2007 English Heritage report on East Tilbury for a discussion of Coalhouse Fort and other defences at East Tilbury in the context of a wider Area Assessment. (14)

Coalhouse Fort located at TQ 6908 7676. The fort was built in the 1870s and equipped with three 12-pounder quick-firing guns and two 9-inch rifle muzzle-loading guns in casemates, plus four 6-inch breech loading Mk. VII guns. In the 1890s it was fitted with four 6-pounder quick-firing weapons. The fort was in use throughout the First World War but had been disarmed by the Second World War. In 1940 it was rearmed as an emergency battery and mounted two 5.5-inch naval guns. From 1943 it was manned by the Home Guard. (15-16)

Coalhouse Fort is a well-preserved fort with Second World War additions intact. The radar tower survives in complete condition near the fort. Site appears to be a musuem. (17)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 1:10000, 1975
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Source Number : 2
Source : Panorama : journal of the Thurrock Local History Society
Source details :
Page(s) : 03-Dec
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 7, 1962
Source Number : 11
Source : English Heritage field survey reports
Source details : English Heritage: Coalhouse Point Survey
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Source Number : 12
Source : World Wide Web page
Source details : [Accessed 12-AUG-2003]
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Source Number : 13
Source : Migrated Defence of Britain Project database record originally compiled from various sources
Source details : The two databases developed by the Project can be searched on-line through the Archaeology Data Service at http://ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/specColl/dob/index.cfm
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Source Number : 14
Source : East Tilbury, Thurrock, Essex: Historic Area Appraisal; Research Deparment report Series 21/2007
Source details :
Page(s) : 24-27
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 21
Source Number : 15
Source : Twentieth century fortifications in England. Volume 6.1. Coast Artillery, 1900-1956
Source details :
Page(s) : 143-152
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 6.1
Source Number : 16
Source : Twentieth century fortifications in England. Volume 6.2. Coast Artillery, 1900-1956
Source details :
Page(s) : 242
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 6.2
Source Number : 17
Source : Twentieth century military recording project: World War Two Coastal Batteries
Source details :
Page(s) : 85
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Source Number : 3
Source : The Antiquaries journal : journal of the Society of Antiquaries of London
Source details :
Page(s) : 152-175
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Vol(s) : 40, 1960
Source Number : 4
Source : Coast defences of England and Wales, 1856-1956
Source details :
Page(s) : 104
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Source Number : 5
Source : Coalhouse Fort and the artillery defences at East Tilbury: a history and guide
Source details :
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Source Number : 6
Source : Essex journal: a review of archaeology and local history
Source details :
Page(s) : 264
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Plates :
Vol(s) : 19, 1988
Source Number : 7
Source : Essex journal: a review of archaeology and local history
Source details :
Page(s) : 131
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Vol(s) : 21, 1990
Source Number : 8
Source : Essex journal: a review of archaeology and local history
Source details :
Page(s) : 105
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Vol(s) : 23, 1992
Source Number : 9
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 02/04/1990
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Source Number : 10
Source : Coalhouse Fort, East Tilbury - 1861 folly? - 1985 museum
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Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Built 1539
Monument End Date : 1539
Monument Start Date : 1539
Monument Type : Artillery Castle
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : 1799
Monument End Date : 1799
Monument Start Date : 1799
Monument Type : Coastal Battery, Fort
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : 1847-55
Monument End Date : 1855
Monument Start Date : 1847
Monument Type : Coastal Battery, Fort
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : 1861-74
Monument End Date : 1874
Monument Start Date : 1861
Monument Type : Coastal Battery, Fort
Evidence : Structure, Extant Building
Monument Period Name : 20th Century
Display Date : After World War II (until 1962)
Monument End Date : 1962
Monument Start Date : 1945
Monument Type : Storehouse
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : First World War
Display Date : First World War
Monument End Date : 1918
Monument Start Date : 1914
Monument Type : Coastal Battery
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Second World War
Display Date : World War II
Monument End Date : 1945
Monument Start Date : 1939
Monument Type : Searchlight Battery, Coastal Battery
Evidence : Structure

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : EX 128
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 12707
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : NMR 2267/131
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : DoB Anti Invasion Database UID
External Cross Reference Number : S0009082
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : TQ 67 NE 19
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 413501
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1375114
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1375139
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1375151
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1378614
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1549291
Relationship type : General association
Associated Monuments : 1429727
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, COALHOUSE FORT, EAST TILBURY
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1984-01-01
End Date : 1984-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, COALHOUSE FORT, (COALHOUSE FORT PROJECT)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1987-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, THE DEFENCE OF BRITAIN PROJECT
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 1995-04-01
End Date : 2002-03-01
Associated Activities : Primary, ENGLISH HERITAGE: COALHOUSE POINT SURVEY
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 2000-01-01
End Date : 2000-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LANDSCAPES OF WAR RECORDING PROJECT
Activity type : MEASURED SURVEY
Start Date : 2008-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31