Milton Blockhouse

Has been described as a Certain Artillery Fort

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameMilton Blockhouse
Alternative NamesMr Cobhams Bulwark; Mylton; the old Blockhouse
Historic CountryKent
Modern AuthorityKent
1974 AuthorityKent
Civil ParishGravesham

The site of Milton Blockhouse, built by Henry VIII in 1539 as part of his chain of coastal defences to defend against possible French or Spanish invasion. It was one of five blockhouses built along this stretch of the river Thames to defend the approach to London and the dockyards at Woolwich and Deptford; the others being at Tilbury, Higham, East Tilbury and Gravesend. It was probably remodelled in 1545 with the addition of an angle bastion. In 1553 Milton blockhouse was disarmed and in 1557-8 it was demolished. The blockhouse was probably similar to the D-shaped plan of Gravesend and Tilbury blockhouses and would have been armed with thirty guns. However, excavations carried out between 1974-8 by the Kent Defence Research Group uncovered remains of an angle bastion on the landward side, probably flanked by another to the west. Angle bastion design was not introduced in England until the mid 1540s and therefore probably represents a later addition to the fortification. (PastScape)

Excavations were carried out by the Kent Defence Research Group at intervals during 1974-8. The purpose of the excavations was to verify identification and to recover a basic plan which could be compared with the D-shaped Gravesend and Tilbury blockhouses, the plans of which were the only ones previously known of the five Thames blockhouses. The excavations revealed a plan suggesting an angle bastion, presumably flanked by another to the west, of which remains might still exist under Canal Road. The latter concealed the front of the building. The angle bastion design represented in the excavated foundations had not yet appeared in England in 1539/40 and the Milton bastion must be a later addition to the original blockhouse, strengthening the landward side. The original blockhouse, of uncertain plan (but conceivably D-shaped like the Gravesend and Tilbury blockhouses) lies presumably to the front under Canal Road. (PastScape ref. Smith, 1980)

Gatehouse Comments

The C18 New Tavern artillery fort lies close by and may well, at it full extent, included the site of the Henrician blockhouse, although it is not mentioned in the scheduling report. On opposite bank of the Thames from the West Tilbury Blockhouse. The strategic value of the site is obvious. The blockhouse was probably built on confiscated church land belong to the Milton Chantry. The shape of its buried later angular bastion addition has been surface-marked and identified by a plaque. Depicted on the 1588 Thamesis Descriptio map as a D shaped feature with 5 artillery pieces. Interestingly on this plan Gravesend Blockhouse is shown with angle bastions but Milton is not.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTQ655742
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Calculate Print


  • Harrington, Peter, 2007, The Castles of Henry VIII (Oxford: Osprey) p. 8, 28, 33, 38, 42, 56, 60
  • Kent, Peter, 1988, Fortifications of East Anglia (Lavenham: Ternence Dalton)
  • Saunders, A.D., 1985, Tilbury Fort Essex (London: English Heritage) p. 4
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 237
  • Colvin, H.M., Ransome, D.R. and Summerson, John, 1982, The history of the King's Works Vol. 4: 1485-1660 (part 2) (London) p. 602-3
  • Smithers, David Waldron, 1980, Castles in Kent (Chatham)
  • Bennett, D., 1977, A handbook of Kent's defences from 1540 until 1945 p. 9
  • Hasted, Edward, 1797 (2edn), The history and topographical survey of the county of Kent Vol. 3 p. 319- (slight) online transcription



  • Smith, V.T.C., 1982, 'Milton blockhouse' Ravelin Vol. 3 p. 18-20
  • Smith, V.T.C., 1982, 'Excavations on the site of Milton blockhouse, Gravesend' Fort Vol. 10 p. 127–9
  • 1981 July 4, Oxfordshire Archaeological Unit newsletter Vol. 8.3 p. 8
  • < >Smith, V.T.C., 1980, 'The Milton blockhouse, Gravesend: research and excavation' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 96 p. 341-62 < > online copy
  • Smith, V.T.C. (Cherry, J. ed), 1978, 'Post-medieval Britain in 1977' Post-Medieval Archaeology Vol. 12 p. 110
  • Smith, V.T.C., 1975, Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 91 p. 200, 208 online copy
  • Smith, V.T.C., 1974, 'Tudor Blockhouse at Gravesend' Kent Archaeological review Vol. 36 p. 173-4 online copy
  • Smith, V.T.C., 1974, 'The Artillery Defences at Gravesend' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 89 p. 141-168 online copy

Primary Sources


  • Kent County Council, December 2004, Kent Historic Towns Survey (Kent County Council and English Heritage) view online copy
  • Saunders, A. and Smith, V., 2001, Kent's Defence Heritage Gazetteer (Kent County Council) part 2 KD126