Monday, August 15, 2011

A Clockwork Thing (or a Beautiful Orange)

Yesterday I headed South to Clapham for the Clapham Street Party (essentially Clapham Pride), but ended up coming home at an embarrassingly respectable 11:45pm, so I was left woke refreshed this Sunday morning.  I was enticed out into a warm, clear, blue sky to do a London exploration.  Today's destination was Thamesmead, in Southeast London, the setting of both A Clockwork Orange and Beautiful Thing.  Both films are very good at making the housing estate appear vast and dire, so naturally I was drawn to it.

I had trouble finding it as, though the estate is in Thamesmead, it is in South Thamesmead.  I was actually about to get back on a bus into central London when I decided to do a little more research on my iPhone before giving up.  Two very unpersonable roundabouts later, I had arrived.

Through the lens of a camera, the estate looks immense, isolated and empty, its central manmade "lake" hard and severe.  In person, it is much smaller; not snug in any sense, but certainly not the windswept plains of concrete I'd expected.  The central towers protrude skyward a bit, but most of the estate is modest in height, and the whole thing is hemmed in by bog standard inner suburban housing.  The area is even respectable enough (or demand for housing so high in London, or both) that there are newbuilds going up right in the middle of the estate.  I didn't see any mention of A Clockwork Orange in the marketing material ("A droog's flat is his castle!").

All in all, the place is not nearly deserving of its reputation as a prime example of post-war planning gone wrong.  It's not an aspirational postcode by any means, but I've seen a lot worse.  Must get to the estates in Elephant & Castle before they're all gone.

Cheers,
Shaun


Photos:

01) Thamesmead09 - The main towers of the estate, bordering Southmere Lake
02) Thamesmead11 - Binsey Walk, along Southmere Lake.  This is the spot of the scene where "Alex reasserts his dominance over his fellow Droogs by dumping Dim in the water and slicing his outstretched hand".
03) Thamesmead20 - Not something you see often on a housing estate...
04) Thamesmead21 - A pedestrian flyover ramp - with stairs (Just to make sure it's not wheelchair accessible?)
05) Thamesmead26 - The estate shops
06) Thamesmead28 - Here you can see one of the "walkways in the sky".  The whole area was inundated by flood waters before it was developed, so the original developments of the "city for the 21st century" put the housing and shops on the first floor and up, leaving the ground floor for parking.
07) Thamesmead30 - Balconies of the type seen in A Beautiful Thing
08) Thamesmead31 - New development within the estate
09) Thamesmead32 - A view of the new abutting the old, with Tavy Bridge separating the two.
10) Thamesmead33 - Another main building of the estate (seen in the background in A Clockwork Orange here)
11) Thamesmead39 - The prosperity of Canary Wharf beckons in the distance to the West

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Shaun H. Coley | Shadwell | Tower Hamlets | London | UK | www.nocirc.org