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The Development of Coal House Fort

Thurrock's unpolished Gem is finally starting to shine.



Write any travel article on an historic destination and the first problem you're faced with is how much does the reader likely know about this place already. In the case of East Tilbuy's Coal House Fort its going to be either, for some people "loads, its great", or "nothing, I've never heard of it". And there in lies the forts problem as a place to be frequented. For all its growing splendor too many locals are unaware of it, or at least unaware of its on-going restoration.

For those who aren't aware of it Coal House Fort lies next to a stretch of serene park and river in East Tilbury giving the fort something extra as a place to dwell, but the park is not an issue to be resolved in the same way that the fort is as that is already quite splendid. The fort is East Tilbury's unpolished diamond as an historic experience, event's venue and potentially a more regular film location. But for now its still a work in progress.

As you enter the fort's entrance you can see that the grounds and structure are largely intact and on site there are numerous military grade vehicles and artillery units from the second world war displayed underlining the forts more recent purpose and adding something on an open-air museum to the experience. Inside there are a network of gloomy vaguely spooky tunnels around its base that are restored and open to the public where once the ammunition was stored in days gone by (and said to be haunted no less) there are even the shell of the barracks and military hospital but in truth that is very much a work in progress. The tour will take you over the buildings roofs giving a nice panoramic view of the river and Kent in the distance.
A recent extensive clean up was initiated, the fort's new cafe is open and manages to be quite a rare thing as cafes go in that its both pleasing to be in and reasonably priced. The result is a significant historical structure with a beckoning cafe, an area with sweeping vistas and an opportunity to see how armies of the last 2 centuries lived, fought and died defending the Thames estuary. The fort currently gets an estimated 6000 visitors a year with an estimated extra 4000 visits now that they are holding various events in the grounds (most recently an open-air screening of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea).

The fort however; while arresting, is still in need of investment and attention to reach its full potential as a truly absorbing experience. Happily it is starting to make progress in terms of transforming it from a neglected ruin into something that is increasingly splendid to visit. Equally it is true that while there is progress - its budgetary constraints mean that progress is, shall we say, rather like the boats that cruise gracefully past it, Slow But Steady.

The Fort is already actively open to the public and taking advantage of its amenities, there are guided tours of the premises each month (you would need to inquire as to the date) an openair cinema shows (paused for the winter months) and more events planned. We recommend you check out whats coming soon

On the photo Kevin Diver Coalhouse Fort's Project Officer






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