Coalhouse Point where the Thames suddenly narrows was home to several defences since 1402, and a D-shaped artillery battery fort stood here from 1539. The fort was replaced in 1799 with Coalhouse Fort which was rebuilt in 1847 and 1860. The large moat you can see to prevent invaders reaching the fort is a technological remnant from Medieval defences around traditional castles – Coalhouse/East Tilbury Battery built down the road around 25 years later used a spiked metal fence instead in a ditch which is a step away from the use of moats. We visited the fort in January 2013 but did not get to look inside. The fort was designed to be used to create a ‘triangle of fire’ with Shornemead Fort and Cliffe Fort in Kent, of similar design, against a French attack which seemed more dangerous with their development of the ‘ironclad’ warship in 1859 which was much stronger against explosive and incendiary rounds which would cause wooden ships to set alight. We are currently planning a guided tour of the fort to photograph and film inside.
In the Second World War, the fort saw the addition of searchlight emplacements, spigot mortars, and a loopholed firing wall, amongst others. Read about the WW2 defences surrounding the fort here.
Abandonment in the 1970s
Photographs kindly from Spacewarp.co.uk