Defending Londons River at Tilbury Fort

Looking for somewhere to visit in Essex?

Why not have a day out at the English Heritage site Tilbury Fort!

Tilbury Fort
Taken from English Heritage site

The great artillery Fort was built in the late 17th Century to prevent hostile ships from sailing up the Thames and to prevent land attack. The fort is one of England’s  finest surviving forts from the 17th century complete with its circuit of moats and bastioned outworks still surviving. During the First World War, the fort became an important supply base for field army equipment, accommodating and supplying troops destined for the trenches.

Although not all of the fort’s buildings survived there are still the Gunpowder magazines, Guard house, North east and west bastion and the officers barracks to look around which all group around the parade ground where the troops would have drilled, trained, inspected, exercised and sometimes were punished. On the parade ground now you will see some of the army vehicles used and some anti aircraft artillery guns spotted around the paved parade. My boys loved looking at these historical artifacts and pretended that they were fighting each other across the parade.

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The foundations of the soldier barracks are clearly seen in the above picture.

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My boys were really excited to be able to touch and explore the vehicles and artillery guns and even had the chance to play with a gun on the east curtain where they could rotate and adjust the height of the gun to aim it at the passing boats on the River Thames, they even had a full view of the banks across the shore at Gravesend.

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A lot of the guns have moving parts and children are encouraged to play and explore them, this was a favourite of the boys and they spent quite a while (even though it was wet and windy) playing with them. Surrounded by the parade are lots of grassy banks that are brilliant for children to run up and down on.

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The walls surrounding the fort have openings in them which are called embrasures, these are where the artillery could fire through.

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Tilbury Fort has so many nooks and crannys to explore that it kept my boys busy for hours even in the rain! They really enjoyed exploring the magazines in the North East Bastion which were built underground and are protected by grassy mounds, within these passages were storerooms that stored shells and cartridges.

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There is an array of gunpowder barrels on display in the magazine houses which the boys likes to climb all over, so glad that they are just for show as I’m sure they would have set them off lol.

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The officers quarters still stands around the parade ground although they have been rebuilt and altered several times, inside these houses are wartime memorabilia of military items. We looked at an old kitchen stove,disposal kit, gun display, an array of gas masks, an officers bedroom (which Jak added that it was quite big) and there were a collection of manikin’s dressed in the old army uniform.

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We had a lovely day at the Fort even though we got soaked through from the torrential rain, it is definitely a place that we will be returning to in the summer, scattered around the parade ground are benches that are ideal for picnics, there is a gift shop that also sells hot and cold drinks.

If you are a big Sharpe fan you would love it here as this is the set where the TV historical drama was filmed during the Napoleonic Wars, the Fort is located half a mile away from Tilbury Town.

Costs: £4.60/ Adult,  £2.80 /Child or £12.00 for a family of 4.

Please check the website for more information on opening times

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Dover Castle come alive!

We woke up bright and early on Sunday morning ready for our trip down to the south coast to visit Dover Castle. Joseph dressed up in his very own futuristic outfit, wearing a Power Rangers body armour, a knights shield and his sword he was ready to defend the Castle if they were to be invaded whilst we was there.

King Henry ll built the Castle in the 1800s and over the next 800 years its building and defences were adapted to meet the changing demands of weapons and warfare.

We live in London, an hour and 15 minutes away from Dover, we had a smooth drive down, with no traffic and found the Castle easily. We arrived just in time for opening time which is 10.00am, we was directed to the car park by an attendant, we parked up and i went in to show our English Heritage Pass to the cashier, there is a different queue for members but i think they were a little short staffed as i had to wait a while at the members desk to be seen. We was all given our stickers to wear for entry and now we was ready to go and explore the Castle and it’s grounds.

The first place we went to visit on the grounds were the Secret Wartime Tunnels, they are guided staff and the tour takes about 50 minutes. There are 26 miles of chalk-cut tunnels beneath the castle which also house a hospital. During World War ll the tunnels crucially became Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay’s bomb proof naval headquarters, where a handful of men and women planned there defence of the Royal Navy ships whose task it was to keep the enemy out of the straits of Dover. On May 26th, 1940 ‘Operation Dynamo’ commenced, the British Army and its allies were trapped at Dunkirk. On entering the tunnels you can immerse yourself into the drama of the daring evacuation that followed and relive the rescue. To bring the experience to life, the tunnels have light and sound effects, film presentations and radio messages played through out the tunnels and bunkers below.

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Next we took a walk up to the top of the hill where the Great Tower is, on the way up we looked around us and took in the amazing views of the Town below, it was a beautiful clear and sunny day so we could see for miles. The views are beautiful and very relaxing. On the way we passed the Roman Pharos which is a part of Dovers earlier history, built over 2000 years ago.

As we walked up a hill we walked through a tower and as Joseph was going through a Knight in his medieval clothes approached him, Joseph came running back to me, I told him that he was friendly and to go and talk to him, Knight to Knight. Joseph couldn’t believe his eyes, they talked about Joseph’s shield and he showed the Knight his Sword to which The Knight got out his sword and showed it to Joseph, they posed together for a photograph and then Joseph was asked if he wanted to train to become a knight, obviously the answer was yes, so we was told to meet in the courtyard at 12pm for a briefing from the King!

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Every weekend in July the Castle comes alive, when you visit the Great Tower you get to meet members of King Henry ll’s royal court, you get to experience medieval court life and interact with a host of characters including the King himself!

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In the court yard just next to the entrance into the Great Tower there stood a blacksmith who served the King, he was demonstrating to everyone what it was like to wear the chainmail armour, which consisted of hundreds of riveted metal rings. Under the metal armour a medieval knight wore a padded garment. The Knight would defend himself with a shield and a helmet. Joseph stood and listened to the blacksmith with much interest, he even placed his own shield against the Great Towers wall amongst the others.

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We took a self guided tour around the Great Tower, exploring the six recreated rooms, the King’s Hall, the Royal Chapel, Guests Bedchamber, Guest Hall, the Kitchen and Armoury. Once you climb up the winding stone staircase of the Great Tower you will be astounded by the panoramic views over the castle and down to the Harbour below.

 

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The favourite part of our day out had to be when Joseph met the King and bowed to him (top right above), he was starstruck and really believed that he was the real King, he was slightly worried when the King threatened to cut off peoples arms if they did not get measured up in armour to become a knight for him, he kept saying “He doesn’t mean it really, does he?” Joseph also got to sit down on the *Ahem* Royal Throne and The King himself addressed Joseph thanking him for turning up to the castle dressed ready for action.

We all had an amazing time and have come away with some lovely special memories of our day, Joseph has come away with some new stories to pass on to his classmates, he hasn’t stopped talking about the King and how he that he has to return to help the King fight. Visiting the Castle has made us look at visiting other English Heritage sites more often, we have our Handbook and are all ready planning our next visit to another Heritage site nearby.

Prices into the castle include the secret wartime tunnel tour:

Adult £14.00  Concession £15.30  Child £10.20  Family £44.20

The Castle opening times are:

29 Mar-31 Jul 10am-6pm

1-31 Aug 9.30am-6pm

1-30 Sept 10am-6pm

For all over information please visit www.english-heritage.org.uk

I was provided with a English Heritage Media Pass in order to review the Castle and one more event. NMEH2013

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