View of Tilbury from the ferry

The ferry offered a brief relief to the cold north wind. I was taking the ferry from Gravesend over to Tilbury to visit the fort.  The short journey takes about 10 minutes and costs £3 return off peak and £5 at other times. It would seem that there had been several passenger complaints as there were a couple of hand written notices stating that if the “chopping and changing” of piers caused a problem then members of the public should write to an officer in the Council.  On the day I took the ferry it went from the West Pier. It had previously gone from the Town Pier. You get good views of the the port and it is refreshing to see a working port. As well as the container ships coming and going there was a Border Agency patrolling the river.  Tilbury is still one of London’s largest gateways.

The ferry is the last chance to cross the estuary and links Essex and Kent. There has been a ferry at this point of the river since the 16th Century. The original ferry house on the north bank is now The World’s End pub.  A car ferry ran between 1927 and 1964.  The opening of the Dartford Tunnel in 1963 reduced demand.

Tilbury Heritage

I was joined on the journey by a couple of families taking their children on this short river crossing as well as a group of women with very large suitcases.  This vision threw me momentarily until I realised that they were crossing to pick up a cruise ship. The anticipation of a warmer climate made them visibly more cheerful than the rest of their fellow passengers.  When ocean voyages were at their height tens of thousands of passengers passed through Tilbury.


Once disembarked you cross an iron bridge and on the west side there are some interesting industrial buildings that are currently not used. There are plans to restore these Grade 11 listed buildings into Britain’s equivalent of Ellis Island.  Windrush landed at Tilbury Riverside in 1948 bringing migrants to help rebuild post war Britain.  It was also the place from where people left Britain to start a new life in Australia during the “Populate or Perish” initiative.  This allowed Britains to travel to Australia for £10. Big Ocean is the title of the project to transform these buildings into a National Museum of Migration. They should know by the end of the month if they will get the funding from Heritage Lottery.  If it does go ahead the museum plus the fort will make for a good day out.