Located at East Tilbury, Essex, England – Coalhouse Fort was originally part of The Thames Defensive Line of Fortifications. These facilities go back to the “Henrician Defenses” of King Henry VIII (1530s). With constant fears of French (and other enemy attacks from sea, estuary and inlet – proper lines of fortified defenses (along the same lines as the ancient Medieval Castle structures), were needed. Originally called “Coalhouse Battery”, it was constructed on an older site – in 1799. Lessons learned from The Second Anglo-Dutch War (1687) – in which The Dutch Navy exploited the weak Thames outer defenses, were learned from. This “new” Battery was difficult to built due to the marshy and soft land. Eventually a defensive position was built. Sporting 4 “traverse mounted” 24-pounder cannon, Gun Crews had 180-degree firing capabilities.
Barracks were constructed as were “Shell Heaters” (small ovens designed to heat lead shells to be used to set fire to wooden ships and canvas sails). A “Wet Ditch was partially erected around the Battery perimeter. Coalhouse Battery was well prepared for a “Napoleonic Invasion” - that never materialized. By the 1840s, more innovations to the Battery caused it to be converted into a Fort. Between 1847 and 1855, “Battery” now “Coalhouse Fort”, came into being. Now 17 larger (32-pounder) cannon were installed. Larger stone barracks and support structures were added. Caponiers were added to the outer defesnses to protect against possible “land assaults” (if needed). A complete “Wet Moat” Defense system was also added. Although no real fear came from the larger Warships “running up river” due to their draught and very shallow waters – The American Civil War had taught many that smaller, faster (and Ironclad and plated smaller warships could). Coalhouse Fort was re-equipped with “rifled guns” capable of incapacitating or severely damaging these types of ships. A “Boom Defense” system (to ensnare ships) and an early “anti-floating mine” system were also installed. Coalhouse Fort in the 1880s was at the height of the Thames River Defensive System.
Many of the Forts later designs were incorporated by the famed Royal Army Engineer Charles “Chinese” Gordon.The Fort was renovated with steel lined Casemates and was always refitted with the “latest” in English Artillery. Several of Coalhouse Fort's 12.5-inch guns (127 pound shells with a 5,000 yard maximum range) could break windows several miles away. Renovations for more modern weapons were continued from World Wars I and II (including anti-aircraft batteries). Decommissioned in 1959, the Fort was purchased privately (and suffered from neglect and vandalism). As of 2015, plans have been made to try and preserve the site.