Thames Town

Coordinates: 31°02′10″N 121°11′26″E / 31.036°N 121.1905°E / 31.036; 121.1905
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Thames Town
Thames Town is located in Shanghai
Thames Town
Thames Town
Location in Shanghai
Coordinates: 31°02′10″N 121°11′26″E / 31.036°N 121.1905°E / 31.036; 121.1905
CountryPeople's Republic of China
Time zoneUTC+8 (China Standard)

Thames Town (simplified Chinese: 泰晤士小镇; traditional Chinese: 泰晤士小鎮; pinyin: Tàiwùshì Xiǎozhèn) is a new town in Songjiang District, about 30 kilometres (19 mi) from central Shanghai. It is named after the River Thames, which flows through London, United Kingdom. The architecture is themed according to British market town styles. There are cobbled streets, Victorian terraces, corner shops and red telephone boxes.[1][2] High house prices led to few permanent residents moving to the area, causing many of the shops and restaurants to close and the area to become known as a "ghost town".


Thames Town is a part of Songjiang New City,[3] in Songjiang District.[4] The town is 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) from the Songjiang New City station on Shanghai Metro Line 9. The G60 Shanghai–Kunming Expressway, formerly known as the Huhang Expressway, passes to its south.[5]

While Songjiang District is an ancient prefecture which predates by far the establishment of Shanghai, Songjiang New City is a new development, intended to draw population away from central Shanghai.[6] Within this city, one of the objectives for Thames Town was to provide accommodation for the staff of the new universities in adjacent Songjiang University Town.[7] These developments were a part of the One City, Nine Towns initiative, which was passed by the Shanghai Planning Commission in 2001. This policy lasted for the duration of the tenth five year plan (2001–2005). The "one city" of this policy was Songjiang New City, where an English theme was used for Thames Town. The "nine towns" of the policy were each sited in one of the other suburban districts of Shanghai, and each was also given their own theme. Other Western themes used to date are Scandinavian (Luodian), Italian (Pujiang), Spanish (Fengcheng), Canadian (Fengjing), Dutch (Gaoqiao) and German (Anting).[8]

The architectural firm of Atkins was given responsibility for planning Songjiang New City and designing Thames Town.[7] The main developers for the town were Shanghai Songjiang New City Construction and Development, and Shanghai Henghe Real Estate. Thames Town was completed in 2006, occupying an area of 1 square kilometre (0.39 sq mi) and designed for a population of 10,000.[4] Some of the architecture has been directly copied from buildings found in England, including the church (modelled on Christ Church, Clifton Down in Bristol), a pub, and fish and chip shop (copied from buildings in Lyme Regis, Dorset),[9] and Chester High Cross. It cost 5 billion yuan to construct.

Mock Tudor buildings in Thames Town
An imitation of English market town styles

The town consists mostly of low-density, single-family housing, with few commercial premises or community facilities. Although the houses sold rapidly, most purchases were by the relatively wealthy, as investments or second homes, and house prices rose to a high level. British architecture writer Jonathan Glancey described it as "a grotesque, and extremely funny parody of an olde English town seen through Chinese eyes, and built by canny British developers".[10]

The proportion of owners taking up permanent residence was low,[11] and Business Insider described it as a "virtual ghost town".[12] Nevertheless, in 2012 a similar English-style town was being planned near Beijing.[13] By 2016, the majority of stores and restaurants in Thames Town were empty.[14]

Despite its emptiness, the town has been used as a location for wedding photography,[15][16] with the church and main square often used as a backdrop.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sennett, Richard (2019). Construir y habitar: ética para la ciudad (in Spanish) (1st ed.). Barcelona: Anagrama. p. 151. ISBN 978-84-339-6433-5.
  2. ^ den Hartog 2010a.
  3. ^ den Hartog (2010a), p. 34
  4. ^ a b den Hartog (2010b), p. 118
  5. ^ Wang, Kundu & Chen (2010), p. 335
  6. ^ den Hartog (2010a), p. 28
  7. ^ a b den Hartog (2010b), p. 122
  8. ^ den Hartog (2010a), pp. 34–36
  9. ^ a b Lim, Louisa (12 December 2006). "China Gets Its Own Slice of English Countryside". World News. NPR. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
  10. ^ "Pubs, privet and parody as China builds little Britain by the Yangtse". the Guardian. 2006-08-16. Retrieved 2022-12-02.
  11. ^ Wang, Kundu & Chen (2010), pp. 337–339
  12. ^ Julie Zeveloff (14 June 2011). "Welcome To The Bizarre Chinese Ghost Town That Looks Like It Was Plucked From The British Countryside". Business Insider. BBC. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  13. ^ Robin Banerji; Patrick Jackson (14 August 2012). "China's ghost towns and phantom malls". BBC News. Retrieved 14 August 2012.
  14. ^ Jennings, Ken. "The British Ghost Town in the Middle of China". Condé Nast Traveler. Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  15. ^ Miller, Lisa (14 September 2013). "Fake English Town In China: Deserted 'Thames Town' Is Abandoned... Minus The Newlyweds". Retrieved 7 January 2021.
  16. ^ den Hartog (2010b), p. 126


  • den Hartog, Harry (2010a). "Urbanisation of the Countryside". In den Hartog, Harry (ed.). Shanghai New Towns: Searching for community and identity in a sprawling metropolis (PDF). Rotterdam: 010 Publishers. pp. 7–42. ISBN 978-90-6450-735-9.
  • den Hartog, Harry (2010b). "Thames Town, Songjiang District". In den Hartog, Harry (ed.). Shanghai New Towns: Searching for community and identity in a sprawling metropolis. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers. pp. 118–127. ISBN 978-90-6450-735-9.
  • Wang, Lan; Kundu, Ratoola; Chen, Xiangming (2010). "Building for what and whom? New town development as planned suburbanization in China and India". In Clapson, Mark; Hutchison, Ray (eds.). Suburbanization in Global Society. Bingley: Emerald. pp. 319–346. ISBN 978-0-85724-347-8.

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