A unique record which reveals Thamesmead's fascinating history has been published thanks to Trust Thamesmead, one of London's leading community development trusts and the only charity working exclusively in Thamesmead.
‘Thamesmead - a Social History' by Valerie Wigfall traces the development of the area through the eyes of the people who have shaped Thamesmead and tells the story of its evolution and growth from prehistoric times to the present day.
The book features contributions by many residents both old and new, and is illustrated with more than 200 photographs, plans and newspaper cuttings.
Hailed in the 1960s as the ‘town of the 21st century', Thamesmead was London County Council's bold attempt to address London's housing shortage following the Second World War. Its iconic concrete blocks, built on empty marshland, epitomise the architectural fashion of the time.
By the mid-70s Thamesmead had more than 10,000 visitors a year from all over the world but over the years social, economic and political pressures have taken their toll. Many obstacles have stood in the way and yet today Thamesmead's environmental assets remain unique in London, many of its residents continue to have a deep affection for the place and a sense of community is still evident.
At the launch of the book author Valerie Wigfall said: “It has been a privilege to have been given the task of researching and writing Thamesmead's history and my affection for the area remains undiminished. If Thamesmead's future proves to be as colourful and dynamic as its past, I look forward to returning to write the sequel when the community celebrates its first half-century in 2018.”
A special guest at the event was Patrick Forbes, who was among the first residents of Thamesmead and later became team vicar responsible for community development.
He recalled coming to Thamesmead as ‘like landing on the moon without a life support system.' Patrick did as much as anyone in the very early days to help create a strong feeling of community. Amongst other things, he was the founder of Trust Thamesmead. He described how in the early days he had encouraged people to ‘dream dreams and have wild ideas' using the status of the Trust to turn them into reality.
A contributor to the book, local resident and community activist Deborah Frimpong, said: “I am so proud to have been part of the book. It is now a legacy for my children and their children. I hope people will read this book, make good use of the information and hopefully have a changed of view of Thamesmead.”
First published in 1997 this fully revised and update edition was commissioned by Trust Thamesmead to mark the 40th anniversary of the first families moving into Thamesmead and reflects the changes of the past decade and looks to the future as the Thames Gateway is developed and London prepares to host the 2012 Olympics.
Copies are available from Trust Thamesmead's offices in Thamesmead town centre priced at £15.00 or you can email us. All profits from sales of the book will be used to support Trust Thamesmead's community projects in Thamesmead.