Page 2 - Thames Defences
P. 2

Victorian Forts                                                 Thames                       1

                                             Coalhouse Fort

          Commenced            July 1861                            Armament
          Completed            1874
          Cost                  £ 130,000 (£211,063 estimated)      1874  4 x 12.5-inch, 13 x 11-inch, 3 x 9-inch RMLs
                                                                    (12.5-inch mounted 1878/9 1 x 11-inch mounted
          Map Reference        TR 694 768                           1879/80)
          Position             North bank of River Thames           1895  4 x 12.5-inch, 9 x 11-inch RMLs in casemates plus
                               Sea/river                            3 x 9-inch RMLs,  4 x 6pr QF (2)
                                                                    1903 4 x 6-inch BLs,  4 x 12pr. Q.F.
          Type                                                                 4 x 12.5-inch RMLs
          Ditch                Wet outer, dry inner                 1912  4 x 6-inch BL 4 x 6pr. Q.F. 4 x 12pr.Q.F.
          Guns                 20  - 12 casemated 8 en-barbette     1913  7 x 32pr. SBBL on standing carriages for saluting
                                                                    1914  2 x 6-inch B.L.
          Barrack Accom. 6 officers, 180 men (300 proposed)         WWII 2 x 5.5-inch ex-naval 1 x Bofors AA
          Present use          In public park. Undergoing
          History              H.M.S. St Clement training           Caponiers
                               establishment 1946
          Disposal             Bata Shoe Co 1949,  Local authority  Counterscarp
          Condition            1962 Pretty good                     galleries
          Access               Occasional open days, or by arrangement with
                               Coalhouse Fort Project
                                                                    Haxo casemates
          Sources              Victor Smith ‘Coalhouse Fort & the Artillery
                               Defences at East Tilbury’
                                                                    Moncrieff Pits

          History and Description

           The later Coalhouse Fort was constructed on the site of earlier forts dating from 1795 and 1854.  In
           1861 work began on the basement. The original plan was for a fort mounting 28 guns in casemates,
           firing through iron shields, and another 28 guns en barbette on its roof.  The new fort consists of a
           semi-circular casemated battery with facings of granite. It was to defend the  narrowing approaches
           of the Thames with heavy armour-piercing RMLs positioned on low ground. Beneath the gun
           casemates are the usual magazine arrangements with shell and cartridge stores and an ammunition
           passage with lifts to the gun floor. A two storey barrack block of Kentish rag stone with bastion-like
           projections closes the rear of the fort. A central parade is divided by a single gun ramp.  A sixty foot
           wide moat surrounded the fort. The fort underwent the usual modifications to provide traverses and
           some of the casemates were filled with concrete.  By 1903 new concrete emplacements for 4 x 6-inch
           BLs and 4 x 12 pr. Q.F.s were added on the roof. Some of the Q.F.s were removed and searchlights
           added, the ditch  filled and the casemates partially earthed-up to disguise the fort’s outline to some
           extent. A small battery for four 6pr. Q.F. with searchlights was built to the south of the fort, later
           reduced to two. Two 12.5-inch RMLs were, however, retained until 1908. In the 1939-45 period the
           fort’s armament was again modified for more up to date weapons and anti-aircraft defence. The fort
           also acted as a degaussing station to counter the threat of German magnetic mines and some remains
           of buildings associated with this function also survive.  Coalhouse Fort is now owned by the local
           authority and is slowly being restored by a group of dedicated enthusiasts. It is opened to the public
           from time to time. More information can be found in ’Fortifications of East Anglia’ by Peter Kent.

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