Murky Depths

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Thamesmead

A look at Thamesmead changes – Part 2

Last week I took a look around parts of Thamesmead after reading demolition of the iconic estate had stepped up a gear and new build blocks of flats were becoming apparent. That post mainly focused on the area of Binsey Walk – though that’s far from the only change in the area.

Upon arriving at Abbey Wood’s new station Elizabeth Line trains are still parked up awaiting the first passenger services – which could still be as long as 18 months away.

I headed towards Sainsbury’s and another big project is clear to see; the delayed and still ongoing scheme to upgrade Thamesmead’s main road link to Abbey Wood station.

Bexley is Bonkers has been documenting progress on Harrow Manorway for years. It’s running around a year late at least so far with no imminent completion. When the £10 million project does finish promotional pamphlets have promised a “boulevard” with dedicated bus and cycle lanes in each direction.

A masterplan for this area will however attempt to lead pedestrians and cyclists away to a side street running almost parallel, with little commercial space lining Harrow Manorway.

The sheer number of new homes on both the Thamesmead and Abbey Wood side of the road could ensure a busy enough thoroughfare to provide commercial space and shops.

Whether directing people looking for shops to side streets will work remains to be seen. I can’t see people walking to areas of Abbey Wood diverting there.

Running alongside this street on the Bexley borough side of the borough boundary are more examples of Thamesmead’s earliest buildings. All now appear empty.

PVC windows replaced full-length wooden frames and they lost a lot of character.

This area is known as Corraline Walk and housed the Barge Pole pub.

Barg epole pub was on very left jutting out towards the street. It came down last year

These buildings proved very costly to build with stepped massing, which provided substantial balconies, becoming simplified in later phases.

At the end of this street I took a right down Yarnton Way. To the left is a PDSA vets and car wash in Abbey Wood. A plan for hundreds of homes was approved on appeal on that site.

Looking down Harrow Manorway

The complexity of early buildings helps give an idea of why budgets were blown. Concrete panels were produced nearby in a purpose built factory – yet even this measure didn’t keep costs down.

Staircases and walkways

Thamesmead was not done on the cheap. Well this bit at least. Budgets did dry up within a couple of years.

A basic row of identikit homes would have been far cheaper to construct.

Yarnton Way provides some very photogenic areas. So, let’s get on it. Mosaics surround ramps up towards now demolished bridges.

Any idea what this symbolises?

Clearly maintenance hasn’t been strong in these area with the axe looming for years.

A handy sign for pre-google map days:

Further areas of new street layout can be seen here alongside those early Thamesmead buildings:

Complexity of form

We’ll have to see how a light-coloured road surface copes with buses and HGVs heading to and from the building site alongside.

Lights on. Nobody home?

If we look over the road the concrete blocks now have white render as new builds rise alongside at what was the areas heart. Tavy Bridge housed a bank, shops, community centre and facilities beside Southmere Lake. The new masterplan follows 1960s concepts and layout extremely closely, even if architecturally it will feature very different materials and design.

Health centre on left is staying. It’s around a decade old and built by Gallions as the first stage of aborted scheme before Peabody took over

1960s, 2000s and future builds in shot

One post-war design feature that is being firmly left in the past is streets in the sky. Pedestrians walkways over roads and weaving between buildings and overlooking car parking below is out.

Many pictures taken along Yarnton Way are from an elevated walkway above garages.

Garages below

It presents a blank facade at street level and we’ve long since realised people take the path of least resistance.

Courtesy Google

This is taken directly opposite the walkway on Yarnton Way. It’s not pedestrian friendly at street level:

Blank wall alongside Yarnton Way

Many people would rather walk on narrow pavements beside the road rather than climb stairs and walk above the garages – even if views are good and paving wide.

I barely saw a single person – and all homes along here are still occupied.

Not that parts of the walkway are in good shape:

None of the glass panels along here look like they’ve been maintained for decades.

The occasional artwork appears:

This section leads to the only remaining footbridge over Harrow Manorway. At least two others have come down for at-grade street crossings.

This shot below shows the undulating forms of walkways:

The bridge itself has seen little upkeep:

Glass panels long gone

From here I headed towards Southmere Lake and took all those photos seen in my last post. It really is a gorgeous area when the sun is shining, and the buildings – many which are not long for this world – look at their best.

I’ve dozens and dozens more photos. Maybe I’ll write another post up. Even if not, they’ll be uploaded to Flickr.

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2 Comments

  1. S Hill

    I was walking my toddler along one of those raised walkways about 11 years ago and he almost fell to his death because of the missing glass/plastic along the walkway. Luckily I grabbed him and no harm was done, but when I phoned Gallions they told me that they would not spend money keeping them safe. Maybe that’s one reason people don’t use them. I never did again.

  2. Gemma Payne

    I’m actually quite saddened by the loss of brutalist architecture in Thamesmead, I know it’s necessary to move with the times and I hope the renovations do lead the area to work better for everyone but it’s losing a lot of the character of the the area in the process, it’s a shame it was so poorly maintained.

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