West Tilbury

Pages 169-171

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 4, South east. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1923.

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101. WEST TILBURY. (C.e.)

(O.S. 6 in. (a)lxxxlv. S.W. (b)lxxxix. N.W.)

West Tilbury is a parish and village on the N. side of the Thames, 1½ m. N.E. of Tilbury town. The church and Tilbury Fort are the principal monuments.


(1). Roman tiles, flint blocks, potsherds, bones and oyster-shells were found in the excavations for the Central Dock at Tilbury in 1883. They were scattered over an area of 40 yards or more, lying on a mossy, grass-grown surface 7 ft. below the modern surface (Arch. Journ., XLII, p. 276).

Incineration burials have been found near the ancient ferry at West Tilbury and opposite Low Street Manor Way in Mucking Marsh (Ib., p. 276–7; XXIX, p. 187).

On the banks of the Thames, about 1 m. E. of Tilbury Fort, much Roman pottery, including 1st-century 'Samian,' has been picked up; some of it is now in Grays Thurrock Free Library. It should evidently be connected with the site noted under East Tilbury.


(2). Parish Church of St. James stands S. of the village. The walls are of flint and ragstone-rubble with dressings of limestone; the roofs are tiled. The Chancel and Nave were built late in the 11th or early in the 12th century. The chancel was lengthened in the 14th century, and the nave was widened towards the N. perhaps at the same period. In 1879 the nave was lengthened towards the W., the West Tower, North Porch and Vestry added, and the church generally much restored and partly re-built.

The Church, Plan

Architectural Description—The Chancel (28½ ft. by 14 ft.) has an E. window all modern except the 14th-century splays and rear-arch. In the N. wall are two windows, the eastern of the 14th century with a two-centred rear-arch and now blocked; the western window is modern; above the latter is part of a round-headed late 11th or early 12th-century window; at the W. end this and the S. wall have some herring-bone facing of the same date. In the S. wall are two windows, both modern except for the 14th-century splays and rear-arch of the eastern window. The chancel-arch is modern. The floor of the chancel has been considerably raised.

The Nave (38½ ft. by 20½ ft.) has been largely refaced except for some herring-bone masonry in the S. wall similar to that in the chancel. There are no other ancient features except part of a round-headed window of late 11th or early 12th-century date and the re-set 13th-century splays and rear-arch of the third window in the S. wall.

The North Vestry and Porch are modern, but incorporate much old material, including a square-headed window.

Fittings—Bells: five—1st by James Bartlet, 1694; 3rd by John Wood, 1692; 4th by Thomas Bartlet, 1621, 5th probably same date as 3rd. Brass Indent: In nave—defaced marginal inscription in Lombardic capitals, 14th-century. Coffin-lid: In nave—with moulded edge and raised cross, 13th-century. Piscina: In chancel—with tre, foiled ogee head, 14th-century. Recess: In chancel —in S. wall, with chamfered jambs and two-centred head, date uncertain. Stoup: re-set in buttress, on N. side of chancel—with two-centred head, bowl destroyed.

Condition—Good, much altered.


b(3). Tilbury Fort, on the river-side on the W. boundary of the parish, was apparently re-built in the 17th century, and is of quadrangular form with salient bastions at the angles and a double moat. Considerable lengths of the rampart walls are of 17th-century brick, but the only buildings which are more or less unaltered are the gatehouse and a small chapel.

The Gatehouse on the S. side of the fort is of two storeys with an attic; the walls are of brick, fronted on the S. with stone, and the roofs are tiled. It was built c. 1682. The S. front (Frontispiece) has a wide elliptical arch with moulded imposts and a voluted key-stone; the spandrels are carved with trophies of arms. Flanking the arch are panelled bays with engaged Ionic columns supporting a continuous entablature, in the middle of which is a panel inscribed "Carolus II Rex Ao. Reg. XXXIV." The upper storey has a panelled centre-piece with a round-headed niche in the middle and flanked by engaged Corinthian columns supporting an entablature and segmental pediment with the royal Stuart arms in the tympanum; the side-pieces masking the base of the gable are elaborately carved with trophies of cannon and arms. The gate itself is of two folds with strap-hinges, five ranges of panels in each and a wicket in the E. fold. The inner archway (Plate, p. 64) is of brick and semi-circular with panelled spandrels; the plain jambs and imposts are of stone.

The Chapel on the N. side of the fort is a small 17th-century building of brick with a pyramidal tiled roof. In the W. wall is a plain doorway, and in the N. wall is a wide constructional arch springing from the ground-level.

Condition—Fairly good.

Monuments (4–7).

The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century and of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered or weather-boarded; the roofs are tiled. Some of the buildings have original chimney-stacks and exposed ceiling-beams.

Condition—Good or fairly good, unless otherwise noted.

a(4). West Tilbury Hall, house and barn, N.W. of the church. The House is of L-shaped plan with the wings extending towards the S. and W. It has been much altered, and there are modern extensions on the E. Inside the building some of the timber-framing is exposed.

The Barn, N.W. of the house, is of the 16th century and of seven bays with a thatched roof of queen-post type.

Condition—Of house, poor.

a(5). Marshall's Farm, house (Plate, p. xxxv), three tenements, 550 yards N. of the church, was built in the 16th century with cross-wings at the N. and S. ends. The upper storey projects at the E. end of both cross-wings. Inside the building the S. wing has a queen-post roof-truss.

a(6). Condovers, house, 650 yards E. of the church, was built in the 15th century with a cross-wing at the N. end and a southern extension of early 17th-century date. The upper storey projects at the E. end of the cross-wing.


a(7). Polwicks, house, 150 yards E.N.E. of (6), has been refronted with modern brick. Under the house is an original cellar of brick.


a(8). Earthworks, S. and W. of the church and Hall, are obscured by gravel diggings and farm buildings. They stand at the edge of an escarpment overlooking the levels towards the river and cover the neck of a promontory. The church-yard stands upon a slight mound suggesting the site of an early camp, whilst a bastion-like projection towards the west gives the work a mediaeval appearance. S.W. of the church is a length of rampart with an internal ditch which turns at right angles towards the N., and appears to be of later date than the other works.