Home Page
The Coalhouse Fort Project was started in the 1980's to maintain, restore and promote Coalhouse Fort. The Fort was built between 1861 and 1874 and remained in service until 1956 when Coastal Defence was abolished.
How to Find Us
This page shows directions to Coalhouse Fort, East Tilbury, Essex, RM18 8PB. Directions are shown by road, rail and bus.
Membership Information
How to join the Coalhouse Fort Project Team.
Fort Plans
Plans of the fort showing magazines, casemates and roof positions.
Recommended Reading List
This list, although not exhaustive, lists some of the books that cover Coastal Defences in England and Wales. Some are out of print due to their age but they can be found in libraries and second hand book shops.
Recommended Booklets
As with the reading list it is not exhaustive. Most forts such as Nothe in Weymouth, Newhaven in Sussex and Landguard in Sufffolk all produce their own leaflets and books obout themselves. ISBN numbers are shown where available.
Links Page
This page includes links to other sites I have found useful in studying forts and associated defences.
Guided tour
These pictures follow the route taken by the guided tour. The tours take about an hour, during which you will hear an abridged history of the fort from its conception until 1956 when coastal defence was abolished.
Pictures From 1983
This gallery contains pictures of the fort from 1983 when the restoration was begun. It also includes comparison pictures from 2006 and will include photos of various events throughout the year.
Pictures From 1984
These pictures show the progress made after one years work by a dedicated group of volunteers
Pictures From 1985
These pictures were taken in December 1985 and show further improvements made in the previous year.
Pictures From 2005
These pictures were taken during my first year as a guide at Coalhouse Fort. They show the various defences installed during the Victorian Period, WWI and WWII.
Shoeburyness Gunnery School
The Shoeburyness Gunnery School was closed down a number of years ago to make way for a housing estate. Some of the emplacements that were, for many years on MOD land can now be reached.
Shoeburyness Heavy Quick Firing Battery
This battery would have mounted two 6" breech loaders and two 12lb quick firing guns. The guns were served with two shell lifts, one for each gun feeding from magazines below. Both guns were served by a common cartridge lift.
Shornemead Fort, Kent
These pictures show the remains of Shornemead Fort, one of the sister forts to Coalhouse. It is similar in size, but a mirror image being on the other side of the Thames. It was largely destroyed with explosives used by the Army School of Demolitions.
New Tavern Fort, Gravesend, Kent
New Tavern was built to protect London from invasion by an enemy using the River Thames. Henry VIII had a blockhouse built nearby c1539 to cross fire with others at West Tilbury, East Tilbury, Milton and Higham.
Maunsell Army Sea Forts
These pictures were taken on the 21st September 2003 from the Pocahontas out of Tilbury Riverside.
Satellite pictures from Google Earth.
These pictures show a number of Forts and Batteries on the Isle of Wight and around Portsmouth viewed from space illustrating the various layouts and forms these structures take.
More satellite pictures
These Google Earth satellite pictures are of the Forts and Batteries in the Plymouth area.
Landguard Fort
Landguard Fort is situated at the mouth of the River Orwell opposite Harwich Redoubt in Essex. As Felixstowe is an important deep water terminal the area has always been well defended
Newhaven Fort, East Sussex
Newhaven is a Palmerston fort built as a result of the 1859 Royal Commission and was the first to use a large ammount of concrete in its construction. It is run by Lewes Council and is open to the public for a number of weeks each year.
Newhaven Fort, East Sussex
With so many things to see at Newhaven, I have decided to include another page of pictures,
Newhaven, East Sussex, Emergency Battery
These three gun emplacements lie approximately 800m to the West of Newhaven Fort. They were installed during WWII to mount 3 x 6" breech loaders. The battery is in very good condition with most of the original buildings intact but bricked up.
Puckpool Mortar Battery, Isle of Wight
A large and well preserved battery looking out across the Spit Banks between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. Built between 1863 and 1865. Re-worked in 1889 and again between 1901 and 1945.
Brean Down Fort, Somerset
Brean Down Fort, Near Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset. One of 'Palmerston's Follies' built as a result of the 1859 Royal Commission.
High Angle Battery, Portland, Dorset
The High Angle Battery, Portland is situated outside Verne Citadel overlooking Weymouth Bay. The Battery was built to mount 9" Rifle Muzzle Loaders firing high angle shots to penertrate the thinner deck armour of the enemies ships
Wormhoudt Massacre Site
On Tuesday 28th May 1940, a number of young soldiers - mostly British - were massacred in cold blood by the SS of the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler.
V1 (flying bomb) Vengance weapon site, Hazebrouck
In the woods near Ebblinghem to the West of Hazebrouck, Northerm France are the remains of a V1 fixed launching ramp. The V1 (flying bomb) was launched against London and resulted in the deaths of over 6,000 people
Corton, Suffolk defences
As the East Coast was so heavily defended during WWII, a large number of structures have survived. Several pillboxes, a tank trap and an anti-tank gun emplacement can be found along the Corton Beaches.
Pictures of Coalhouse Fort
Photographs of Coalhouse showing: Depression Position Finder (Battery Observation Post): WWII Gun houses: Degausing monitor position: 1943 Bofors position: Loop-holed firing position:
Bradwell on Sea Defences, Dengie Peninsula, Essex
The Dengie Peninsula lies between the Rivers Blackwater and Crouch and is surrounded by a flood defence wall. As the coast is low laying it could have been an ideal landing area for an invasion. Bradwell also had an airfield between 1942-45.
Burnham on Sea Defences, Dengie Penninsula
The entrance to the river Crouch was protected by a number of pillboxes running East from Burnham. They were joined by a mine field control tower, still present and in good order. To the West of Burnham was an army camp, and a WWII cinema still stands.

Pictures of Coalhouse Fort

1. Loopholed wall firing position

This structure is built on the far end of the north caponier. The roof of the caponier has been formed into a 'Rifle Section Support Trench'. The outer (east) edge of the roof has been widened to 8ft and has been built up with granite blocks. Walking through the trench leads to a substructure that is approx 6ft 6" high, 7ft deep and 12ft 6" wide. Built directly on top is a superstructure which in effect is a doubled tiered, loopholed wall. It has return flanks either side of 45 degrees and stands 6ft in height. There are two rows of loopholes, 6 for standing positions and 6 for prone positions. It would be impossible to man all of the loopholes at the same time, in fact manning the standing positions could result in being shot in the foot! There is no access to the firing positions now, but the remains of a ladder were found in the 'trench' in the 1970's.

2. Depression Position Finder (DPF) position

This is the WWI battery observation post (BOP) that was later updated during WWII. It is accessed from the rear via a flight of steps. The BOP is divided into two rooms by a stud wall, one for the gunnery direction officer and the other for the searchlight controller. Above the observation slit are remains of a wooden pelmate on which a panorama would have been hung giving details of features of land and seascape with ranges on particular objects. Stencilled onto the partition wall and on the sidewalls are 'datum boards' giving information such as height (above sea level) and normal opening bearings (NOB), relating to searchlights or gunfire. Externally, remains of splinter proof, shutter type shields remain. On the floor of the BOP some elements of the pillars for the range finding equipment can be seen in the right hand corner. The rear (west) wall has a large window overlooking the parade area. Below, in the space between the floor of the BOP and the original roof of the fort would have been batteries and cables etc.

3. Gun house 1B

Gun house number 1/B. For a description please go to picture 5, gunhouse 1/A. This only differs from 1/A in a few details. On the southern side of this structure is a lookout position accessed via a 16 runged ladder. This leads to the steel two man "Air Sentry's Post". Since the majority of the observation posts on the roof look towards the Thames, this position was intended to observe any low level raiders approaching form the south or west, as well as indicating where incendiary bombs fell either in or close to the fort. This gunhouse is slightly wider to accommodate a "Dummy Loader" in the northern quarter of the floor area. A notice still shows that the Dummy Loader was Sgt Milligan S and his Limber Gunner was Gnr Wingfield H.

4. Degausing monitoring position

Degausing Control Tower. Sited between the two gunhouses and occupying a Victorian gun position (unused) is a two storie brick building. This is the Degausing Control Tower, originally (March/April 1940) this had been a small wooden shed. As winter 1940/41 approached the shed was built over by a brick structure, and the upper floor became a Visual Reporting Position. There are no remains of the stairs that joined the floors, being wood they rotted away years ago. The lower floor held a switchboard (PBX), a small library of ship data books, a teleprinter and small electric hob. The upper floor contained a wall chart of the estuary, 3 pen recorders (one for each offshore cable) a pintle for heavy binoculars, an Aldis Lamp and other signal equipment. The occupants were mostly Wrens who, in conjunction with the detachment at Cliff Fort on the opposite (Kent) bank, controlled the "Degausing loop" cables laid on the river bed. These cables indicated the effectivness of the anti-magnetic mine countermeasures. In the occasional event of vessels readings on the pen recorder indicating innsufficient anti-magnetic protection then that vessel would be ordered to the nearest degausing station for rectification.

5. Gun house 1A

Gunhouse 1A. Battery 1 (in the 1940 scheme) position A was designed to be a small fortification in its own right. Its walls are at least 15 inches thick with a reinforced concrete base that overlaps the Victorian casemates below and therefore has to supported to the rear by 7 brick and reinforced concrete pillars. The gun house is basically a retangular building with small wings either side and a sloping roof towards the rear. It has a canopy or pelmate of steel plate hung on the front face which is painted two-tone wavy deep (north sea) grey-green and light sea grey. To enclose the gun, several more sheets were hung, arranged so that they could be slid to one side as required. Into the brick walls 4 precast concrete loopholes for rifles or light machine guns were inserted during building. one to fire north, one south and a pair west into and over the fort. These loopholes could also be used for observation and sentries would be posted behind each. This gunhouse is built on the site of the WWI, 6" emplacement. During WWII a 5.5" naval gun from HMS Hood was installed, while another was placed in gunhouse 1B.

6. 1943 Bofors position

1943 Bofors emplacement. During the Second World War, the fort was equiped with two Bofors Anti-Aircraft guns.

Weights and dimensions
40mm anti-aircraft artillery
Dated 1943
Calibre (mm) 40
Barrel length (cals) 56
weight in action (Kg) 522 (1,150lbs)
Weight of round (Kg) 2.15 (4.75lbs)
Projectile (Kg) HE 0.9 (1.985lbs)
Round length (mm) 447
Muzzle velocity (m/sec) 881
Ceiling (m) 6796
Range (m) at 10 degrees 6228
Rate of fire (max) 160 rounds/min

These Bofors were the only weapons to fire in anger throughout the history of Coalhouse. Four of the pictures show the Bofors that is mounted on the roof. This weapon, although dated 1943 has been modified in later years and is fitted on an electrically operated mounting probably from a warship. It was donated by the Gunnery School at Shoeburyness and was flown to the fort below a Chinhook helicopter a number of years ago. The Bofors second from top is fitted on a mobile carriage and can be found in the parade ground.

7. Barr and Stroud position

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