It is not often an ordinary family is plucked from obscurity to be the pioneers of a new experiment in building.

WHEN a limousine called to pick up the Gooch family from Peckham and take them to their new home, it was the start of a whole new life.

The family was chosen by the Greater London Council (GLC) as the first to move into its new award-winning town, built on former Thames marshland.

Terence and Joan Gooch and their children Velia, then aged 11, John, eight and Tony, five, were the first residents of Thamesmead.

They had been living in a two-bedroom flat with a kitchen and front room, an outside toilet and no bathroom.

They moved on July 3, 1968 into a three-bedroom maisonette with a kitchen, living room, bathroom and two toilets.

Mr Gooch, now 74, recalls: "As always, the construction work was not finished on time.

"But the arrangements had already been made for us to be greeted by Bexley's mayor, Councillor Kenneth Smith, and Desmond Plummer, the leader of the GLC."

The Gooches did not realise they would spend the next six months as the only residents of the new town, surrounded by a giant construction site.

Thamesmead had been the brainchild of the London County Council as a way of solving London's slum clearance.

Dubbed "the town on stilts" Thamesmead was built on 130 acres of marshland Homes were on the second floor, with parking underneath, and linked by concrete walkways, to keep people safe from flooding.

The marshes were drained into a series of lakes, linked by canals.

Its Lakeside health centre was built on stilts overlooking a lake and the town also won several international design awards.

Barnehurst resident Anthony Walton scooped the £20 competition prize from the now defunct Evening News to name the new town.

When the Gooches moved in there was no street lighting and any visitors had to be escorted through the site to their home by a security guard.

Velia continued at her existing secondary school, but the two boys were picked up daily by a teacher and had a class to themselves at a nearby secondary school.

Mr Gooch, whose wife died in 1999, said: "We were not nervous about living there on our own."

After about six months, a caretaker moved in nearby and the town began to fill.

There were some disappointments, especially the lack of a proper town centre with lots of shops, which Mr Gooch says residents were promised.

He still lives in the same maisonette, and Mr Gooch says he has no regrets about moving from Peckham to Thamesmead, and being the pioneer for a new town.