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Learn more about Tilbury

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For other places with the same name, see Tilbury (disambiguation).
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Population: 12,091 (2001)
Ordnance Survey
OS grid reference:TQ645765
Borough: Thurrock
Region: East of England
Constituent country:England
Sovereign state:United Kingdom
Ceremonial county: Essex
Historic county: Essex
Police force: Essex Police
Fire and rescue: {{{Fire}}}
Ambulance:East of England
Post office and telephone
Post town: TILBURY
Postal district: RM18
Dialling code: 01375
UK Parliament:
European Parliament: East of England
Image:Flag of England.svg

Tilbury is located on the north bank of the River Thames, in the borough of Thurrock in England, at the point where the river suddenly narrows to about 800 yards/740 metres in width.

Tilbury has a deep water port, a fort and was the site of an important ferry to Gravesend on the south bank of the river.

The county's speedway team can be found nearby at Arena Essex, next to Thurrock Lakeside along the A1306. Here the top speedway riders from around the world can be seen racing weekly from March to October.

Over recent years Tilbury has gained a large travelling community.


[edit] History

Queen Elizabeth I unwisely placed her main army at Tilbury (see Speech to the Troops at Tilbury) where they would have found it difficult to cross the river and prevent the attacking Spanish army from capturing London after it had been landed in Kent by the Armada.

[edit] Fort

Forts at Tilbury were an important defence of London, particularly during the Spanish Armada and the Anglo-Dutch Wars. The first permanent fort at Tilbury was a D-shaped blockhouse built in 1539 by Henry VIII and designed to cross-fire for palisading and a boom of ships' masts, chains and cables was stretched across the Thames to Gravesend anchored to lighters.

The fort fell into neglect again and did not feature in the English Civil War. In 1651 its garrison was a governor, a lieutenant, an ensign, four corporals, one drummer, a master gunner, 16 matrosses [gunner's mates] and 44 soldiers.

After the English Civil war Charles II was exiled in Holland where he was influenced by European advances in military architecture. Following the disastrous 1667 Dutch attack on the English fleet moored on the nearby Medway - Charles II set in motion the re-fortification of the site by employing Dutchman Sir Bernard De Gomme who had been engineer in the Royalist army during the civil war and who followed Charles into exile.

Work started on the current fort in 1670 but was conducted slowly often with the use of pressed labour from nearby towns and was still continuing in the 1680s. De Gomme's plan was for a pentagon with projecting bastions facing west, north west, north east and east and a planned river bastion facing directly south. Henry VIII's blockhouse was retained. Major features such as the imposing Water Gate were not complete until about 1682. The river bastion never materialised.

As well as the brick fort there was an earth and brick gunline along the river bank. In 1715 there were 31 demi cannon and one culverin in the East Gun Line and 17 demi cannon and 26 culverins in the West Gun Line. Two huge powder magazines [housing 3,600 barrels each] were built in the centre of the fort in 1716 but the same year many of the 161 guns surveyed were declared unserviceable and effective strength was found to be just 60 pieces. In 1724 Daniel Defoe estimated there were 100 guns ranging from 24-pounder to 46-pounder: "A battery so terrible as well imports the consequence of the place".

Highland prisoners captured after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 were held at Tilbury while a cricket match in 1776 between men from the Kent and Essex sides of the Thames ended in bloodshed when guns were seized from the guardroom; an Essex man was shot dead, an elderly invalid was bayonetted and a sergeant was shot trying to quell the riot. The Napoleonic invasion scare of 1803 saw the Royal Trinity House Volunteer Artillery manning 10 armed hulks across the Thames at Tilbury.

Nineteenth century improvements in metallurgy and artillery firepower saw extensive re-design and re-modelling along the fort's riverside, much of it overseen by Captain Charles Gordon [1833-85] later known as 'Gordon of Khartoum'. The 17th century walls were re-inforced and earth was embanked on the outside to protect the brickwork from the effect of modern high velocity guns. Emplacements were built for 9-inch muzzle-loaders on top of the bastions and these new works became the primary gunline angled more to the south east to engage ships well down stream. The Henry VIII blockhouse was demolished.

The Victorian modernisation was, in due course, partly built over again prior to the First World War and it is these later concrete emplacements and expense magazines which visitors see today on the south-east curtain.

The fort's sole military success was in the First World War when anti-aircraft guns on the parade ground shot down a Zeppelin airship. Bombing damage in the Second World War destroyed the 18th century solders' barrack block but the officers' terrace still survives. De-mobilised in 1950 and placed in the care of the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works and opened to the public, the site is now cared for by English Heritage.

The fort has several interesting features. The Water Gate, circa 1682, is an ornate opening in the south wall allowing access to the quay on the river. The outer defences consist of two wet moats, a ravelin and a redan.

There is a separate fort at Coalhouse, East Tilbury, which has a Napoleonic and Victorian history.

[edit] Docks

For many people Tilbury dock was there point of emigration to Australia under an assisted passage scheme established and operated by the Australian Government. The “Ten Pound Poms” as they were known down under, embarked on to ships such as RMS Mooltan and set of for a new life. The docks at Tilbury operated as London's passenger liner terminal until the 1960s, and were reopened by the Port of Tilbury group as the London Cruise Terminal [1]. The London Cruise Terimnal takes many bookings each year.

Today the port handles a variety of cargo, container, and passenger liner traffic and remains, along with Southampton and Felixstowe, one of Britain's three major ports.

[edit] The Tilbury Tree

The Tilbury Tree is part mythological and part fact. Local sources dating from the 15th Century state that '...a tree unlike any other seen in this marsh-country sprouted overnight, with leaves and fragrance foreign..' . Observations go on to state that within days (some say not more than two weeks), the tree dies. It is unsure to the modern arborologist as to what species the Tilbury Tree belongs to, though it is thought to appear with sudden drops in climate temperature.

[edit] Transport

Thurrock Council operates a ferry between Tilbury and Gravesend, together with Kent County Council.

Tilbury has one railway station on the c2c (London, Tilbury and Southend) rail route:

Tilbury Riverside railway station was closed in 1993 and a bus service now connects Tilbury Town railway station and the ferry to Gravesend.

A form of transport in the 19th century as alluded to by Patrick O'Brian in his book "Desolation Island", page 40, "the post-boy...feigned interest in a passing tilbury, calling out to its driver 'that the knacker's yard was only a quarter of a mile along the road...'"

[edit] External links

fr:Tilbury no:Tilbury


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