The First Families
The Gooch Family Move In
In July 1968 the first family moved from their home in Peckham to Thamesmead. The Gooch family — Terence and Joan and their children Velia 11, John, eight and Tony, five — were chosen by the GLA to be the first residents of Thamesmead. The family were chauffeur driven to their new home on Coralline Walk for a ceremonial event and presented with a commemorative plaque by Desmond Plummer, the Leader of the Greater London Council. Mr Plummer described them as ‘pioneers’ moving into a new town at its very beginning.
The film below documents, on handheld 8mm film, the area, the first family arriving to the site, the plaque presentation and the inside of the Gooch’s new home.
An Amatuer silent film documenting the very first days of Thamesmead
A silent film shot on 8mm film — documenting the arrival of the first family to move into Thamesmead
In the early years of development people were vetted before being allowed to become residents. And the expectations were very high. In this oral history recording Shirley Aide, an early resident, talks about the process of getting a house in Thamesmead — which included a home visit to check on their level of domestic cleanliness — and her first impression of the buildings on Binsey Walk.
Jim and Shirley Aide discussing moving to Thamesmead and the process of getting a flat
As well as being interviewed before being given a home there were also expectations to be maintained once they arrived. This handbook was given to residents moving in. As well as containing helpful local information rules are set out about a range of issues. For example, residents were not allowed to hang washing on the balcony — which would have disturbed the aesthetics of the architecture — but were to use the laundry room.
Living at Thamesmead
This film — released only two years after the silent film of ’68 — by the GLC is much slicker and presents the ambitions for Thamesmead that were still in the masterplan — such as a marina. The film (14mins28sec) shows the Gooch family in their home and children in the new Thamesmead Primary School. The film also shows the a Resident Association Meeting (20min45sec) with the ‘Pioneers’ present raising issues around the scaffolding and cleaning of communal areas. The film addresses the international visitors to Thamesmead, including Governor Romney (22min55sec). At one point it was estimated that there were 10,000 visitors a year coming to see Thamesmead something that did not always sit well with some of the early residents who found their homes the subject of international architecture pilgrimages. Such were the number of visitors postcards were even given out in the Information Centre — the collection of these can be found here.
By 1970 the Residents’ Association featured in the GLC film was very active. This news letter ‘Mesmedaath’ (an anagram of Thamesmead — that only lasted as a title for a few issues before being changed to Insight later the same year, due to how challenging it was to pronounce) gives shows the way in which community that was banding together and some of the challenges they were facing.
Living at Thamesmead
This semi-fictional account documents a couple who live separately in the Thamesmead estate and decide to move in together. The film, created in 1974, shows the architecture and landscaping of Thamesmead and the everyday lives of the residents and acts as a promotion video for the area. It includes sequences showing social activities, sporting events, educational and health facilities. It stars Julie Dawn Cole and Spencer Banks as the young couple and Jim and Shirley Aides as Julie’s parents. Jim and Shirley were hugely involved in the early community activity in Thamesmead and have contributed material to the archive. A selection of Jim’s records documenting the Thamesmead Football Club TMFC can be found here.
Living at Thamesmead 1974