Ellie (third left) with Brandon, Luke, Richard, Tayler and Killian outside The Link, a youth and community centre in the arches under Harrow Manorway. 2018 Photography © Tara Darby

Rising from London’s Erith marshes in the 1960s, Thamesmead was London County Council’s bold attempt to build a new town to address the city’s housing shortage after the Second World War. Noted for its daring, experimental design – concrete modern terraces, blocks of flats and elevated walkways built around a system of lakes and canals – the town received attention from architects, sociologists and politicians throughout the world but also gained notoriety as the backdrop to Stanley Kubrick’s film, ‘A Clockwork Orange’.

Today, Thamesmead is home to more than 40,000 people, but over the years, economic, political and social pressures have left their mark. In the 1980s, as opinion turned against the modernist concrete architecture, the focus shifted to more conventional red-brick homes.

Since the 1990s, as some of the original buildings began to fall into disrepair, Thamesmead has relied increasingly on private investment for new developments in what had previously been a mainly council run town. After the abolition of the Greater London Council in 1986, numerous bodies have managed the town and now Peabody is embarking on an ambitious regeneration plan.

In a new book, ‘The Town of Tomorrow’, 50 years of Thamesmead’s history has been assembled and preserved. The architecture of the town and its inhabitants are captured by archive material combined with newly commissioned photography by Tara Darby.

Original plans, models, postcards, leaflets and newspaper cuttings are presented alongside interviews with local residents. Together with an introductory essay by John Grindrod, the images convey the story of this influential but often misunderstood town, from the dreams and excitement of its ambitious original vision to the complex realities of living there today. You can pre-order your own copy via Here Press.

The southern end of Coralline Walk, viewed from Lensbury Way. 1969 © London Metropolitan Archives

The southern end of Coralline Walk, viewed from Lensbury Way. 1969 © London Metropolitan Archives

Looking west along Yarnton Way. 2018 Photography © Tara Darby

Looking west along Yarnton Way. 2018 Photography © Tara Darby

Sheniz Bayraktar (née Mehmet) with her brothers at a celebration of The Queen’s Silver Jubilee in South Thamesmead. 1977 Photography © George Plemper

Sheniz Bayraktar (née Mehmet) with her brothers at a celebration of The Queen’s Silver Jubilee in South Thamesmead. 1977 Photography © George Plemper

Children’s playground and the Lakeside Health Centre, Tavy Bridge. 1973 © Bexley Local Studies & Archive Centre

Children’s playground and the Lakeside Health Centre, Tavy Bridge. 1973 © Bexley Local Studies & Archive Centre

Crossing Eastern Way (A2016), via the ‘A’ Bridge, built 1973. c.1979 Photography © George Plemper

Crossing Eastern Way (A2016), via the ‘A’ Bridge, built 1973. c.1979 Photography © George Plemper

Titmuss Avenue, The Moorings. 2018 Photography © Tara Darby

Titmuss Avenue, The Moorings. 2018 Photography © Tara Darby

Construction of towers on Southmere Lake. 1970 © London Metropolitan Archives

Construction of towers on Southmere Lake. 1970 © London Metropolitan Archives

Manordene Road, off Crossway, Area 5, looking north east along the waterway that runs from Moat Gardens to Tump 39 and the Thamesmead Ecology Study Area. 1982 © London Metropolitan Archives

Manordene Road, off Crossway, Area 5, looking north east along the waterway that runs from Moat Gardens to Tump 39 and the Thamesmead Ecology Study Area. 1982 © London Metropolitan Archives

Lensbury Way. 1970 Photography © Tony Ray-Jones / RIBA Collections

Lensbury Way. 1970 Photography © Tony Ray-Jones / RIBA Collections

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