Thamesmead: A late 20th century New Town

First Residents

Thamesmead's first residents

The name Thamesmead was chosen by a local resident, Anthony Walton, who won £20 for his suggestion. The first family, the Gooches, moved into their ‘luxury, three-bedroomed maisonette’ in Coralline Walk in June 1968 to much fanfare and publicity. But problems, notably ‘rain penetration’, had already been encountered with the new housing (even in the show home!) and no more residents moved in until the following year.

The building of Thamesmead was only the first part of making the town work. As residents began to arrive from the housing waiting lists of inner London, so attention turned to the incoming population. It wasn’t only the needy and destitute who ended up at Thamesmead – many people were desperate to move to the new town partly as a result of the publicity. Many were lured by the GLC’s glossy brochures featuring lakes with yachts and colourful artists’ impressions of tree-lined canals coupled with ultra modern accommodation.

Thamesmead also had its own nature reserve called Tump 53 on reclaimed Royal Arsenal ground (‘tump’ refers to a hillock or mound).

The planners had stressed the need for a proper community to develop at Thamesmead and had tried to facilitate this by designing many different types of housing on the one site (different sizes, tenures, private, public, etc), which they hoped would result in a mix of social classes and age groups. In addition the first council tenants to be moved to the town had been fairly well vetted to check that their housing records were good.

The GLC, for the first time, also appointed a community development officer specifically to cater for the needs of the new community and to help people settle.