In common with the rest of London, the ethnic make-up of Thamesmead has changed since it was first built. Initially, it was one of the most homogenous estates of its type in London, being predominately white and working class. The lack of London Underground services and at the very edge of the metropolis may have meant Thamesmead was not first port of call for immigrants arriving in London. The housing selection policy that favoured relatives of existing residents reinforced this aspect.
After the abolition of the GLC, the estate’s ownership transferred to a trust company and the founders’ wishful vision of a futuristic community has largely been abandoned in favour of traditional British suburban housebuilding.
Thamesmead is known for its abundance of green spaces. It has five lakes, 7km of waterways, over 150 hectares of open space and two nature reserves. It has a long history. Local attractions include:
"There were going be jobs - those jobs never materialised."
The nearest stations are Abbey Wood, Belvedere, Plumstead, Woolwich Arsenal and Woolwich Dockyard for Southeastern services towards Crayford, Dartford, Gillingham, Hither Green, London Cannon Street and London Charing Cross.
The marshland and its proximity to the Thames dominated its design.
A couple of miles down the road to West Thamesmead there has been successful work to ensure that community pride is restored.
Joan Chilton and Dawn Smith fought to keep their dream alive when their peaceful lives were threatened by anti-social behaviour three years ago.
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.
Thamesmead’s story began in the 1960s, when the then Greater London Council developed plans for a new town to be built on the Erith and Plumstead Marshes.
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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.
The danger of flooding meant all habitable rooms had to be built at first floor level.
Thamesmead is served by London Buses routes 177, 229, 244, 380, 401, 469, 472, B11 and N1.
The new vision for Thamesmead will take the focus away from the architecture and put the spotlight back on the residents of the town.
The idea was to create a balanced community with a mixture of ages and social classes, a bit of social engineering but it didn't succeed.
These were all major engineering projects and in addition earlier building foundations had to be excavated (these were recycled for use in road construction) and transport networks set up before any building could start. Also, since about 1700, attempts to reclaim the land had mostly involved using convict labour to infill the marshland with various materials including, in later years, rubble from the bombing of London during the Second World War.
Another radical idea of the GLC division architect Robert Rigg was taken from housing complexes in Sweden, where it was believed that lakes and canals reduced vandalism and other crime, mainly among the young. He used water as a calming influence on the residents.
When the GLC was abolished in 1986, its housing assets and the remaining undeveloped land were vested in a non-profit organisation, Thamesmead Town Limited (TTL). TTL was a private company with an unusual form of governance[clarification needed]. Its nine executive directors were local residents; they periodically submitted themselves to re-election.
When Peabody acquired Gallions, Trust Thamesmead and Tilfen Land in 2014, it meant housing, community investment and over 100 acres of developable land in Thamesmead became owned by a single, well-resourced organisation for the first time in a generation.
However, partly due to isolated zeppelin raids on the Arsenal during the First World War, people became worried about the manufacture and testing of guns and ammunition so near to densely populated areas. The Arsenal was now surrounded by residential developments as London expanded further and further outwards. So from the 1920s onwards the site was scaled down as both the testing and manufacture of weapons moved to more remote and secret areas.
After decades of broken promises residents are ready for a change.
The first residents moved to Thamesmead in 1968 and a strong community began to form.
"When people came out of their cars, they were walking into 'no man's land'. Over the years it became a place where people felt uncomfortable where it was dark, where sometimes vandalism occurred."
In spring 2016, Peabody announced its proposals for a £1bn regeneration programme for South Thamesmead over the next ten years. This, together with two Housing Zones which are being led by the London Borough of Bexley and Royal Borough Greenwich and delivered by Peabody with funding from the Mayor of London’s office, has pushed Thamesmead into the top 50 regeneration projects in the UK.
But the elevated walkways built for protection, became a threat.
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.
For residents it's what they been waiting for since the 1960s...
Because of its remoteness – and perhaps also its bleak ambience – Thamesmead has not proved a popular place in which to live. This has led to a spiral of decline and part of the district is now perceived as a ‘sink estate’.
Peabody’s interim executive director of Thamesmead, Pauline Ford, said: “This is a great opportunity to release the potential of this sleeping giant.
In order for it to survive, regeneration and community spirit need to work hand in hand.
The aim was to relieve London’s housing shortage and create a 'Town of the 21st Century' (the name Thamesmead was chosen by a Bexley resident in a 'Name Our New Town' competition).
Between 1812 and 1816, a canal was built by convicts to take materials such as timber from the River Thames to Woolwich Royal Arsenal. Much of this canal has been filled in, but part remains in Thamesmead West and is now called the Broadwater. A disused lock gate and swing bridge over the canal still exist beside the River Thames.
After years of suffering anti-social behaviour and crime the locals now want a new deal which means knocking a lot of this down and giving them a more friendly environment to live in.
Dawn recalls the problems: "There was things going on like mortgage fraud and rubbish problems in the area, fly tipping and... there was a brothel."
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Brutalist 1960s concrete blocks in south-east London will be demolished and transformed into 25,000 new homes for an area the size of Winchester.
The concrete blocks of south Thamesmead were also used as the backdrop for popular Channel 4 drama Misfits.
“The perception formed by a Clockwork Orange are just wrong, but we know we need to spend a great deal of money on good design. This is a place on the cusp of something special.”
The Thamesmead Riverside Walk runs alongside the Thames through Thamesmead West, Thamesmead Central and Thamesmead North and is part of both the Thames Path Southeast Extension and National Cycle Route 1. Thamesmead is also one of the starting points of the Green Chain Walk, which links to places such as Chislehurst and Crystal Palace.