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Thames Town: Chinese town modelled after English market towns, with cobbled streets, Victorian terraces and pubs

Ian Harvey

Known as the English town in China, Thames Town is a small town, about 30 kilometers from Central Shanghai. Some say, if you dream of living in Britain, you should move to Thames Town because you won’t notice the difference anyway.

This little piece of England named after the river Thames in London has authentic British style, and its architecture is themed according to classic British market towns. Cobbled streets, Victorian terraces, and pubs are a part of the impressive architecture. Even England’s citizens would feel like home if they come to visit this place.

Thames Town in Songjiang, Shanghai, China Photo Credit


Some of the architecture has been directly copied from buildings in England, such as the church. The church was modeled after Christ Church, Clifton Down in Bristol. A pub and a fish and chip shop that unfortunately are abandoned were also copied from buildings in Lyme Regis, Dorset, and the Cross in Chester as well.

A Church in Thames Town, Shanghai Photo Credit


An imitation of English market town styles Photo Credit

The town is a part of Songjiang New City in Songjiang Distinct. The architectural firm of Atkins was given the responsibility to plan Songjiang New City and design Thames Town. Its construction cost of the town amounted 5 billion yuan. It was finished in 2006 and occupied an era of 1 square kilometer.

The town was designed for a population of around 10,000 citizens. It consists mostly of low-density, single-family housing and a few premises of community facilities.

Thames Town in Songjiang Photo Credit
Thames Town, Shanghai  Photo Credit

Within the city, one of the objectives for Thames Town was to provide accommodation for the staff of the new universities in adjacent Songjiang University Town. Nine universities were planned for this town, and around 10,000 students were expected to live there. The industry would be supported by proposed high-tech factories, and medical complex would lead research in medicine and train new doctors.

The intent of Songjiang New City’s new development was to draw away population from central Shanghai. However, that didn’t go as planned.

If someone has the desire to visit this place, they should keep in mind that you shouldn’t expect much of activity there. The majority of the stores are still empty or abandoned, and there’s no amusement. The town doesn’t even have official openings and closings.

The old town hall on the market square in Kingston upon the Thames, Greater London, England Photo Credit

Thames Town, in fact, is one of the ‘ghost towns’ around the World. After all, the architecture is a well enough reason to visit the place.

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This town is also famous for wedding photography because of the picturesque Church and the Main Square which often are used as a backdrop.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News