If you were asked where in world would you find Thames Town you could be forgiven for thinking it was a small town in the UK, probably situated somewhere near the snaking river Thames.

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If so, you could not be further from the truth. Thames Town is an area of 1 square kilometre and is a part of Songjiang New City in Songjiang District, China. A town with a population of around 10, 000 people, this extraordinary town is not only English by name. Architecturally, Thames Town has been designed to replicate old English market towns, complete with cobbled streets, Victorian terraces, corner shops and even red telephone boxes. You will also find the traditional chippy and pub with some of the architecture having been directly copied from buildings found in England including the church (modelled on Christ Church, Clifton Down in Bristol). If you where blindfolded and plopped into one of the street you may very well think you are still in old Blighty. Needless to say the town has become a major destination for local Chinese tourists and specially so for wedding parties looking for backdrops for their photos, backdrops they would not find anywhere else in China.

Now we all know the Chinese are incredibly talented at replicating, faking or reproducing almost everything in the world to a high degree of accuracy but the job to design Thames Town actually went to a British architectural firm, adding to the authenticity achieved in this little bit of England, thousands of miles away. Though the town has been a success since it's initial inception and development and all the properties where quickly sold, the town has of late become a little of a ghost town due to most homes being bought as second homes for the more wealthy Chinese. You could say here again it mimicks some of the English market towns it is based on. A new and similar project is now being proposed closer to Beijing with a view that it would be close enough to allow people to commute into the capital but make their permanent residence in this new English themed town.

This shows that the British brand is still very strong abroad, specially in markets such as China and US. It's not just our fashion brands, Scotch whiskies, Saville Row suits and performance car brands that are sought after but even the design, feel and ambience of our traditional market towns. Something we ourselves have been enjoying, cherishing and ensuring is maintained for future generations. The traditional character and feel of these old market towns dotted all around the country should be preserved and celebrated by us for as the Chinese have shown us there is a lot to appreciate and admire. After all, imitation is the best form of flattery!

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