The Brits may take a fair amount of knocking for our love of all things Tudor and our attempts to maintain the architecture of a period that ended as the 17th century began, but the Chinese are certainly not pointing and laughing. Rather, the enterprising architects of Shanghai have created a town that replicates what they see as the very best of British period architecture and there are an awful lot of white houses with black beams to be found, as well as the occasional red telephone box.
Situated in Songjiang, just outside of Shanghai, the functionally-named Thames Town seeks to reflect a typical English town. Although some reports say that it feels more like a cross between the sets of Inspector Morse and The Truman Show. The town was built for a population of 10,000, although the sheer demand (and rising price) for the houses as second homes and holiday home means that the actual population is somewhat less, giving it the feeling of a theme park or the film set feel that some comment on.
Regardless of how populous the town is, you have to give the local architects and builders their dues. They have created something that successfully imitates the style of outer London areas like Hampstead or Wanstead and combines them with Cambridge, Oxford and parts of central London. Dorset, Chester and Bristol get at look in too. There are even statues of those twin British icons of Winston Churchill and Harry Potter.
Chip shops, pubs and even more modern social housing have all been copied from English originals, as has the church and cobbled streets. All of these locations are popular with young wedded couples, who travel to the area to have their wedding photographs taken in this bizarre version of what we consider to be everyday.
Some have seen the town as a failure, but this has not put off Chinese builders creating a replica of Tower Bridge and also making plans for an imitation of an English market town, which is being built in the countryside close to Beijing. Local officials say that English will be the official language there, to add to the authenticity of the experience.
This all may sound very strange to us, but a similarly odd Tudor village was actually built in England itself during the 1920s, with the result being the delightfully quirky seaside town of Thorpeness. The town is perhaps the only place that you can find a seven-storey Tudor house (which hides a water tower), but otherwise looks only just a little off, in that there is definitely a 1920s feel to the place. The village’s creator was a good friend of Peter Pan author JM Barrie, with the hand-dug lake there being based on some of the stories from the famous children’s book.