Local Henley artist Clive Hemsley, who recently launched Henley’s first “living wall”, has always wanted to make a feature of Henley’s historic Grade I bridge. Inspired by London and its many historic bridges which light up at night including the gorgeous Chelsea Bridge, Clive has overseen 16,000 LEDs to be fitted on both sides of the bridge and they were switched on for the first time last night.
Mr Hemsley said, “We have so many important events in Henley, not least of which is the Leander Club’s 200th anniversary this year, which are worth celebrating. It makes perfect sense, both from a tourist’s and a local’s point of view. We feature other ancient buildings within Henley, including St Mary’s Church, with spotlights and street lights. It was a no-brainer for me to light up our beautiful ham stone bridge. We used the latest in LED technology with just 12 volts, making this project entirely safe and environmentally-friendly.”
Clive told the Henley Herald that the bridge had had old-fashioned (not environmentally-friendly) halogen floodlights. which were rusty, unattractive and of little use.
Using today’s technology, Clive and his team have fitted LEDs on both sides of the bridge providing 400m of commercial lighting. The bridge is now a significant focal point from both directions. The river views up and downstream featuring the five stone arches have now been enhanced. Using the equivalent output of one old-fashioned lightbulb, Clive’s project has given the bridge a warm soft white light against the beautiful yellow ham stone.
Other benefits of lighting up the bridge is safety; all boat traffic especially during Henley Royal Regatta and Henley Festival week will be able to see where they are going. Clive added, “As a boatman, it can be quite daunting looking for the arches when it gets dark and the mist comes in.”
This project has been fully supported by Henley Town Council and SODC. The Mayor, Councillor Kellie Hinton, and County Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak have both been behind this project since the outset. There has been no cost to either ratepayers or locals within the town. The only proviso the councillors gave was to insist that the necessary safety precautions, protocols and due diligence procedures were adhered to. Clive Hemsley confirmed that all safety measures were observed. The hardest challenge for him was to find people with the correct skills. He would like to thank Jonathan Hobbs and Kim from Hobbs of Henley, and main local fireman and decorator, Brian Hearn, for their amazing support plus Mark Dunlop, landlord of The Angel on the Bridge for currently supplying the electricity. He also worked with a specialist bridge historian from Ilminster, Somerset, who oversaw the project without needing to close the bridge at any time to road or river traffic.
Clive said, “I think it’s going to be a lovely feature for Henley-on-Thames. It was ten times more difficult than building the living wall. I do hope people enjoy it. I am very mindful that it was a low-profile project. We took liberties in doing it without consulting town folk and, for that, I apologise. It’s temporary and now up to the town to decide whether it should be permanent. I guess an official application will need to go to Oxfordshire County Council. I’m not a committee man and apologise again if I have upset anyone through my enthusiasm and directness.”
The bridge, built in 1786 for horses and carriages, is not in good condition. Clive suggests that Henley follow Marlow’s example, and restrict heavy vehicles from crossing the bridge.
So the question for Henley-on-Thames is: Lights on or lights off for Henley on Thames bridge? Please do share your views (leave your comments below) We would love to know what you think of Clive Hemsley’s latest project.