Historical places in Thurrock
The 17th century Tilbury Fort, built after the deep incursions of the Dutch fleet in 1667 is sited on the north bank of the river Thames straddling the Thurrock parishes of Chadwell S. Mary and West Tilbury. One of the structures still surviving within its curtain walls is a combined Guardhouse with 1st floor Chapel.
Certainly the two existing parish churches, St Mary's at Chadwell St Mary and St James's at West Tilbury served the fort in earlier times as births, deaths and marriages are registered in their respective church. The parish boundary runs north - south across the middle of the parade, dividing the soldiers barracks (barracked on the Chadwell parish side of the fort), from the officer's quarters on the West Tilbury side of the parade.
The building in question dates from around c1700, originally the building functioned on the ground floor level as the guardroom and cell block. Later on it is described as a recreational room.
At various times a vicar is attributed as part of the garrison.
A newspaper report gives an account of the chapel being opened on the 26th September 1870:
THE GRAVESEND & DARTFORD REPORTER,
Issue of Saturday October 1st 1870.
THE BISHOP OF ROCHESTER AT TILBURY FORT -
On Monday last the Bishop of Rochester visited Tilbury Fort for the purpose of opening a chapel for the garrison. The chapel, formerly the recreation room, is situated over the guard room and possesses several features of interest; besides its age it is claimed but without foundation, as the sleeping place of Queen Elizabeth, on her memorable visit to the fort in 1588.
There were present, the clergymen of the district - including the Rev. C. E. R. Robinson, Rev. Robert Joynes, Rev. Jno. Joynes, Rev. F. A. March - a number of ladies, and Colonel Kerr, Commandant of the Musketry Depot, Milton, Colonel Gordon, R. E., of New Tavern Fort, Major Prynne, Captain Westly, the commanding officer at Tilbury, Captain Cholmondeley, Captain Newsome, Adjutant Gypps, Lieut. Stephens, and Capt. Steward, the harbour master.
The Bishop preached the sermon, and took for his text Psalm xlviii. 12, and at the finish of a very appropriate discourse, a collection was made to defray the expenses of the restoration, which amounted to nearly £12. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Bishop was entertained by luncheon with the Hon. Mrs. Claughton, the Misses Claughton, by Col. Kerr and the officers of the Depot, the entire party numbering between thirty and forty. His lordship left soon afterwards for Cobham Hall in the carriage of the Earl of Darnley.
During the second world war the guard room / chapel appear to have been a base for AA gun control on the north Thames & Medway fixed defence systems, this was apparently later transferred to a purpose built bombproof facility at Vange.
In recent times the chapel has been refurbished by English heritage, notably with pews from the now redundant church at West Tilbury.