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Thamesmead is a suburb of Londonmarker, UKmarker built on the southern bank of the River Thames, 9.4 miles (15.1 km) east of Charing Crossmarker. It is located partly in the London Borough of Bexleymarker and partly in the London Borough of Greenwichmarker. Originally planned to have 100,000 residents, it is now estimated to be on target for a final population of around 50,000 people.

It has four distinct areas:
  • Thamesmead South, which consists of high-rise housing;
  • Thamesmead West (around Whinchat Road to Belmarsh Prisonmarker and also along the banks of the river Thames) is relatively isolated from the rest of the area and has mainly medium density residential development with residential towers along the riverside;
  • Thamesmead Central and Thamesmead North are mainly low-density housing close to the river front.


(Thamesmead East was designated mainly for industrial development - however, this can be confusing as the Thamesmead East ward of Bexley Council covers Thamesmead North and Thamesmead South).

History

Most of the land area of Thamesmead previously formed about of the old Royal Arsenalmarker site that extended over Plumstead Marshes and Erith Marshes. There is some evidence of prehistoric human occupation of the area - flints, animal bone and charcoal were found in bore holes around Western and Central Way in 1997 by the Museum of Londonmarker Archaeological Service (MOLAS). In Roman times the river level was significantly lower, and work by MOLAS in 1997 around Summerton Way found evidence of field ditches and pottery and quernstones from Germany dating from around the 3rd or 4th century. After the Roman era, river levels rose again and the area reverted to marshland. According to Hasted, some areas of this marshland were drained by 1279 by the monks of Lesnes Abbeymarker.

Between 1812 and 1816 a canal was built to take materials from the River Thames to Woolwich Royal Arsenalmarker. Much of this canal has been filled in, but part remains in Thamesmead West and is now called the Broadwater.

Much of Thamesmead was initially built by the Greater London Council (GLC) for rent to families moving from Central London areas where slum clearance was under way. The area had been inundated in the North Sea Flood of 1953, so the original design placed living accommodation at first floor level or above, used overhead walkways and left the ground level of buildings as garage space.The first residence was occupied in 1968, but already there were rain penetration problems. The pre-1974 parts of Thamesmead are a mix of medium-rise and 12-storey blocks system-built in concrete, which have featured in numerous filmings due to their 'rough urban look'; the design of the newer buildings is more traditional and in brick.

When the GLC was abolished in 1986, its housing assets and the remaining undeveloped land was vested in a non-profit organisation Thamesmead Town Limited (TTL). TTL was a private company with an unusual form of governance. Its nine executive directors were local residents; as is normal, they periodically submitted themselves to re-election.

In 2000, TTL was wound down and two new organisations were created. In broad terms, Gallions Housing Association took over the ownership and management of the housing assets whilst Tilfen, later Tilfen Land, took over the remaining undeveloped land. Tilfen is jointly owned by Gallions and Trust Thamesmead.

District heating and cable radio broadcasting were pioneered in Thamesmead. The District Heating System was decommissioned around the turn of the millennium, with those properties connected to it having wet radiator systems installed by the landlord.

Thamesmead today



Housing is still under construction here both by Gallions Housing Association (for rent and part rent/part buy) and by private developers (for outright sale). Water remains an important feature of the several parks and open spaces. Homes there are still relatively affordable by London standards, reflecting, in part, the poor transport infrastructure. The area is also under the flight path to and from London City Airportmarker, which is a particular issue in West Thamesmead where the planes are at their lowest.

The Tavy Bridge area, now being redeveloped by Gallions in partnership with Wates Group; the plans include homes with dwelling space at ground floor level, making them susceptible to any future flooding.

Thamesmead shopping centre is rather twee and contrived: finished in brick, its design marked the end of an era when architects toyed with the notion that English people could be persuaded to enjoy living in overtly concrete, system-built structures. Some overhead pedestrian walkways have been demolished for reasons of public safety and some ground floor garages have been infilled, as incidents of crime deterred their use as parking space.

Trust Thamesmead is a registered charity set up to provide community services across Thamesmead. It runs six community centres and runs a variety of projects promoting social development and work and training projects.

Thamesmead West is home to Gallions Ecopark a pioneering small social/affordable housing development with homes built to high energy efficiency and environmental standards.

Part of Thamesmead West is also sometimes referred to as "Gallions Reach Urban Village". This can lead to confusion, as it is on the opposite bank of the River Thames from Gallions Reach DLR stationmarker and Gallions Reach shopping park. There is no Docklands Light Railway, London Underground or rail station in Thamesmead West.

Early 21st century new build properties in Thamesmead West have been blighted by social problems and mass repossessions, attracting national attention.

Belmarsh prison and the audacious, decorative and inventive sewage processing works at Crossnessmarker, built in the Victorian era, are on the western and eastern edges of Thamesmead respectively. The southern boundary is the covered South London Outfall Sewer, which has been landscaped as an elevated footpath called the Ridgeway.

Thamesmead has recently appeared in an advert for the Metropolitan Police about their new insistence on more community support officers on the streets of London.

In November 2007, Bexley Council marked Thamesmead's 40th birthday with a motion proposed by local Councillor David Leaf and seconded by Councillor John Davey.

Sport, leisure and culture

The local football team is Thamesmead Town F.C. who play at the soon to be redeveloped Bayliss Avenue ground. Thamesmead were champions of the Kent League in 2007/08, and were then promoted to the Isthmian League Division One North. Thamesmead Town have a small but dedicated following that are known as The Thamesmead Hardcore.

The Thamesmead Riverside Walk runs alongside the Thames through Thamesmead West, Thamesmead Central and Thamesmead North and is part of both the Thames Pathmarker Southeast Extension and National Cycle Route 1. Thamesmead is also one of the starting points of the Green Chain Walkmarker, which links to places such as Chislehurstmarker and Crystal Palacemarker.

The Tavy Bridge area of Thamesmead South, including Southmere Lake, was used as a setting for the Stanley Kubrick film A Clockwork Orange and also the Channel 4 film Beautiful Thing. British TV Drama Misfits was also filmed in Thamesmead.

There are a wide variety of active community groups and local bands (The Bargains and a member of post-rock act From The Sky ) and a short-range commercial radio station - 106.8 Time FM - that grew from the original cable (subsequently FM) service "Radio Thamesmead".

Places of worship in the area include the Thamesmead Ecumenical Parish, with shared buildings and co-operation by the Methodist Church, Church of England, United Reformed Church and Roman Catholic Church.

There is a combined swimming pool, fitness centre and library run by Greenwich Council and Greenwich Leisure Limited in Thamesmead Central (The Thamesmere Centre). Bexley Council run a library at Binsey Walk near Southmere Lake, and sailing and canoeing are run at Southmere Lake in Thamesmead South by Southmere Boating Centre (with Greenwich Yacht Club) and sailing only by the YMCA in association with Erith Yacht Club. Trust Thamesmead run an indoor climbing wall (The cAve) near Southmere Lake. The Thamesview Golf Centre in Thamesmead North has a nine hole course and driving range, and the Crossway Gymnastics Centre is located in Byron Close. Fishing at Birchmere Lake in Thamesmead West is organised by Thamesmead Town Angling Club. Fish include tench, bream, carp and pike.

Education

For education in the Bexley portion of Thamesmead see the main London Borough of Bexley article
For education in the Greenwich portion of Thamesmead see the main London Borough of Greenwich article


Transport and locale

Thamesmead's location between the Thames and the South London escarpment limits rail transport and road access points. Thus Thamesmead has no underground or surface rail links. Most residents rely on bus services to reach the nearest rail stations.

Early proposals for the Jubilee Line Extensionmarker would have seen the line extended from Central London to Thamesmead, via the Isle of Dogsmarker and the Royal Docksmarker. However, revised plans in the 1980s eventually saw the route serving the Greenwich peninsulamarker, Canning Townmarker, and Stratford, Londonmarker. There is a disused railway trackbed from Plumsteadmarker which once served the Royal Arsenalmarker.

Buses serving Thamesmead include services B11, 177, 180, 229, 244, 380, 401. 469 and 472, and the night bus N1.

Ethnicity

White British 67%

Black or Black British 20.9%
Black African 16.2%
Black Caribbean 4.0%
Black Other 0.7%


Mixed Race 3.0%
White and Black Caribbean 1.4%
White and Black African 0.6%
White and Asian 0.5%
Other Mixed 0.6%


Asian or Asian British 5.5%
Indian 3.6%
Bangladeshi 0.9%
Pakistani 0.4%
Other Asian 0.6%


Chinese or other East Asian 3.4%
Chinese 2.2%
Other East Asian 1.2%


Nearest places



Nearest railway stations



References

  1. Appendix 1, section 7 of the Tripcock Point planning report 9Sep2005 (Planning document PDU/0514/03, relating to London Borough of Greenwich Planning Application 03/2618/O) Online rtf version available here, accessed 27 May 2008
  2. Museum of London Archaelogical Service site summaries 1997, accessed 27 May 2008
  3. Museum of London Archaelogical Service site summaries 1997, accessed 27 May 2008
  4. Bexley Local Studies Centre Note 5 - Thamesmead, accessed 27 May 2008
  5. Greater London Industrial Archaelogy Society, notes from Bob Carr October 1992, accessed 27 May 2008
  6. Thamesmead, A Potted History, by Marc Anderson, on Greenwich 2000 website, originally from Thamesmead Gazette July 1995, accessed 27 May 2008
  7. Thamesmead History on Trust Thamesmead website accessed 27 May 2008
  8. 'About Us' on Trust Thamesmead website, accessed 27 May 2008
  9. Gallions Ecopark in Thamesmead
  10. Financial Times Article - October 2008 - "Requiem for a dream home"
  11. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8193884.stm BBC News - "The Fraud Capital of the UK", accessed 11 August 2009
  12. Thames Path Southeast Extension on TfL website, accessed 27 May 2008
  13. Green Chain Walk website, accessed 27 May 2008
  14. Thamesmead on the 'Hidden London' website, accessed 27 May 2008
  15. Lesnes Methodist Circuit, accessed 27 May 2008
  16. Leisure & Sport page on Trust Thamesmead website, accessed 27 May 2008
  17. Birchmere Lake details on 'Go Fish' website, accessed 27 May 2008


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