Higham Blockhouse

Has been described as a Possible Artillery Fort

There are no visible remains

NameHigham Blockhouse
Alternative NamesHeigham; Hiegham
Historic CountryKent
Modern AuthorityKent
1974 AuthorityKent
Civil ParishHigham

The possible site of Higham Blockhouse, a small artillery blockhouse built by Henry VIII in 1539 as part of his chain of coastal defences in response to the threat of foreign 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, East Tilbury, Milton and Gravesend. It was decommissioned in 1553 and demolished in 1557-8. It was probably a D-shaped blockhouse similar to Gravesend and East Tilbury blockhouses. Nothing remains of the blockhouse and its precise location is not known although it may have stood on the west bank of Shorne Creek where it meets the River Thames. The remains of the blockhouse are shown on Robert Adam's 1588 map of the Thames Defences. (PastScape)

There is no architectural record of Higham Blockhouse and the position is not accurately known. It was probably on the west bank of Shorne Creek where it joins the river Thames. The blockhouse was one of five built in 1549. It was disarmed in 1553 as part of a general rundown of defences ordered by Northumberland and it was demolished in 1557-8. (PastScape ref. HKW)

Gatehouse Comments

Despite stating the location is uncertain the PastScape record gives a very precise map reference of TQ7011875445. In fact nothing is shown at this location on the 1588 map. Gatehouse considers this may actually be the Erith fort at about TQ515782. Cliffe Fort at TQ70667665 is a C19 fort just outside the Higham parish boundary but would seem the most appropriate location for a fort but one would still expect this to be on the 1588 map. It seems to have been assumed that the Hiegham mentioned in the Tudor papers is a reference to Higham parish but Higham is a common placename, although there does not seem to be a Higham placename in Erith parish.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTQ701754
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Calculate Print


  • Harrington, Peter, 2007, The Castles of Henry VIII (Oxford: Osprey) p. 8, 28, 38, 56, 60-61
  • Saunders, Andrew, 1995, 'Thames fortifications during the 16th to 19th centuries' in Thames Gateway: recording historic buildings and landscapes on the Thames estuary (RCHME) p. 124-134
  • 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. 236
  • 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. 602-6
  • 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. 481- (slight) online transcription


  • Smith, V.T.C., 1974, 'The Artillery Defences at Gravesend' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 89 p. 141-168 online copy
  • Smith, V.T.C., 1968, 'The Higham blockhouse hypothesis' Transactions of the Gravesend Historical Society p. 13-16
  • Saunders, A.D., 1960, 'Tilbury Fort and the Development of Artillery Fortification in the Thames Estuary' Antiquaries Journal Vol. 40 p. 153-4

Primary Sources

  • Thamesis Descriptio Anno 1588 online copy
  • Gairdner, J. and Brodie, R.H. (eds), 1894, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII Vol. 14.1 p. 151-2 no. 398 online copy
  • Gairdner, J. and Brodie, R.H. (eds), 1896, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII Vol. 15 p. 131 no. 323 online copy