Thames Town: Shanghai's England-themed village

A scale model of the village. Image: Getty.

Chinese cities are no strangers to imitation. Hell, without leaving the Middle Kingdom, you can visit the Eiffel Tower, a Venetian canal and Rockefeller Centre.

Even the humble English village has also received a nod from China's imitationist architect, complete with mock Tudor frontages, cobbles, squares, and corner shops. Named "Thames Town" (which suggests this is very much a Home Counties village), the settlement is situated about 30km from central Shanghai.

It's part of Songjiang New City, a new development intended to shoulder some of Shanghai's enormous population growth. Other Western themed developments have also been built or partially built in Shanghai's suburbs, including "Holland Town", and Italian, Canadian and Scandinavian-style developments. 

What's striking about Thames Town in particular is its remarkable accuracy. This may be because English architects are forever imitating their own mythologised image of the ideal British village: faux-Victorian and faux-Tudor buildings are pretty much as common now in Britain as their actual historical counterparts. In fact, Thames Town wouldn't look out of place if you dropped it into Poundbury, Prince Charles' bizarre model town development off the A35. 

Here's a replica London cab:

Image: Getty.

Here are some replica buildings, a clocktower and some trees. You can see a Shanghai tower block in the background, too: 

Little Britain. Image: Huai-Chun Hsu via Flickr.

The town and its extremely fake-looking church have become a popular location for wedding photos:

Image: Getty.

Here are some fake Georgian townhouses:

Image: Huai-Chun Hsu via Flickr.

And an admirable attempt to use a British typeface:  


Image: Marc van der Chijs via Flickr. 

Look, there's even a branch of Costa!

Could be the ideal location for your next holiday, if you get sick of your own cobbled high street and corner shop.


There isn’t a war on the motorist. We should start one

These bloody people. Image: Getty.

When should you use the horn on a car? It’s not, and anyone who has been on a road in the UK in living memory will be surprised to hear this, when you are inconvenienced by traffic flow. Nor is it when you are annoyed that you have been very slightly inconvenienced by another driver refusing to break the law in a manner that is objectively dangerous, but which you perceive to be to your advantage.

According to the Highway Code:

“A horn should only be used when warning someone of any danger due to another vehicle or any other kind of danger.”

Let’s be frank: neither you nor I nor anyone we have ever met has ever heard a horn used in such a manner. Even those of us who live in or near places where horns perpetually ring out due to the entitled sociopathy of most drivers. Especially those of us who live in or near such places.

Several roads I frequently find myself pushing a pram up and down in north London are two way traffic, but allow parking on both sides. This being London that means that, in practice, they’re single track road which cars can enter from both ends.

And this being London that means, in practice, that on multiple occasions every day, men – it is literally always men – glower at each other from behind the steering wheels of needlessly big cars, banging their horns in fury that circumstances have, usually through the fault of neither of them, meant they are facing each other on a de facto single track road and now one of them is going to have to reverse for a metre or so.

This, of course, is an unacceptable surrender as far as the drivers’ ego is concerned, and a stalemate seemingly as protracted as the cold war and certainly nosier usually emerges. Occasionally someone will climb out of their beloved vehicle and shout and their opponent in person, which at least has the advantages of being quieter.

I mentioned all this to a friend recently, who suggested that maybe use of car horns should be formally restricted in certain circumstances.

Ha ha ha. Hah.

The Highway Code goes on to say -

“It is illegal to use a horn on a moving vehicle on a restricted road, a road that has street lights and a 30 mph limit, between the times of 11:30 p.m. and 07:00 a.m.”

Is there any UK legal provision more absolutely and comprehensively ignored by those to whom it applies? It might as well not be there. And you can bet that every single person who flouts it considers themselves law abiding. Rather than the perpetual criminal that they in point of fact are.

In the 25 years since I learned to drive I have used a car horn exactly no times, despite having lived in London for more than 20 of them. This is because I have never had occasion to use it appropriately. Neither has anyone else, of course, they’ve just used it inappropriately. Repeatedly.

So here’s my proposal for massively improving all UK  suburban and urban environments at a stroke: ban horns in all new cars and introduce massive, punitive, crippling, life-destroying fines for people caught using them on their old one.

There has never been a war on motorists, despite the persecution fantasies of the kind of middle aged man who thinks owning a book by Jeremy Clarkson is a substitute for a personality. There should be. Let’s start one. Now.

Phase 2 will be mandatory life sentences for people who don’t understand that a green traffic light doesn’t automatically mean you have right of way just because you’re in a car.

Do write in with your suggestions for Phase 3.