China has a taste of old England

8th May 2013

It's the sort of place with an old English feel that you would think tourists would flock to.

It boasts mock Tudor buildings, red telephone boxes, traditional British pubs, cobbled streets, a Gothic church, what look like members of the Queen's guard patrolling and even statues of Winston Churchill and Harry Potter.

Except this isn't London, but China and unlike London's tourist traps, this place is virtually a ghost town.

Thames Town lies around 19 miles away from central Shanghai and opened seven years ago as a replica of a small UK town as one of a range of Chinese imitations of Western cityscapes.

Although the properties sold rapidly, most buyers were wealthy and looking for investments or second homes.

Now only a handful of people reportedly live there, but the place is increasingly attracting tourists on private journeys wishing to take pictures of its English-style architecture.

This extraordinary settlement arose out of the flat, soggy farmlands of Songjiang, as local property developers recreated a town that in one huge architectural sweep took in grand Victorian, Georgian and Tudor style buildings.

Traditional buildings, including pubs and shops, were copied to recreate the British way of life. Developers even created an artificial river to replicate the Thames.

James Ho, the head of one of the companies behind the development, Shanghai Hengde Real Estate, said: "I wanted the properties to look exactly the same as those in the United Kingdom."

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