FolkestoneJack's Tracks

The Thames, Tilbury and a Tall Ship

Posted in England, Tilbury by folkestonejack on March 12, 2011

I have been meaning to head down to Tilbury Fort for quite a few years after some rather random exploration on multimap highlighted the distinctive star shape of the fort. Today, I finally got myself organised to go with Brett and headed there by train. The nearest station is Tilbury Town and it is a relatively easy walk to the fort down St Andrew’s Road/Ferry Road – if you go the right way, that is! My ability to misread a map or directions are second to none…

The fort sits in a strangely mixed landscape with horses grazing in the green fields on the landward side, a power station to the eastern side and the Thames out front. It made for an interesting combination as I snapped away with my camera – one minute taking a picture of a seventeenth century gate and the next getting a shot of a container ship passing the twentieth century gun batteries.

I was fascinated by the history of the fort and learnt alot about the darker moments from its history, such as the imprisonment of men, women and children from the battle at Culloden – many suffering from typhus after the long journey around the coast to the fort. The tale of sightseers taking boat trips to view the prisoners in the fort was quite chilling.

One of the terraced houses (formerly the officers’ barracks) holds a reconstruction of an officer’s bedroom and a interesting collection of militaria. Amongst the collection were a series of letters from a soldier who had been taken prisoner in the First World War – one asking his mother to send a loaf in the post along with a tub of butter and a pot of jam. You can almost imagine the hunger that goes into dreaming of that.

Towards the end of our visit we spotted a tall ship passing the fort and a bit of googling later helped identify this as Juan Sebastián de Elcano, a training vessel of the Spanish navy and one of the largest tall ships in the world today.

All in all, we spent a good two hours or so exploring the fort with the assistance of an audio guide and the panels at various spots around the site. I’d certainly recommend a visit – it was well worth the trip out.

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