Clive Lights Up Henley Bridge

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.


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40 replies
  1. Kim Bennett says:

    Looks fabulous and must definitely be a permanent feature. Don’t mind that townsfolk weren’t consulted, was a lovely surprise

  2. Anna Lambert says:

    Yes! Henley should definitely keep the lights on the bridge – it looks attractive, it’s a safety feature and it’s a nice thing for visitors to see.

    I noticed that a photo of the bridge with the lights on got 400+ likes on the Henley Recommendations Facebook Group, so that should give some indication of the popularity of this project among Henley residents.

  3. Anon says:

    If ever evidence were needed that there is no accounting for taste, it can be found in this project.
    It may look ‘pretty’ at night, but it is brutally ugly by day in it’s use of very basic materials and the manner in which it is ‘installed’.
    Shocked to read of Town Hall support for such an insensitive of ‘bling’ to our town’s ‘Jewel in the crown’.

    • clive Hemsley says:

      I always wondered why people do anonymous its not very British! – least have the courage to say who you are and I confirm it is temporary so tape is the order of the day and I beg to differ it very suttle – THIS IS A TEST proper application and consultation will need to be observed.
      If you want to complain look at the damage to the bridge and direct your anonymous notes to the trustees of the bridge -I’m certainly going to

      • Clare Thurgood says:

        Clive, people often shy away from commenting online precisely because of your attitude. You are rude and confrontational about this commenter’s decision to remain anonymous. Just because s/he doesn’t like what has been done is no reason to go at him like that. The negative point of view is as valid as all those who are praising this. For what it’s worth, I’m Henley born and bred and I think this looks garish and not in keeping with the bridge and the river it spans.

  4. Laurence says:

    Saw them for the first time earlier this evening; a warm glow that’s inviting, practical, pretty and a wonderful compliment to an already beautiful bridge. Why not light up the entrance to our fabulous town? Thanks Mr H, here’s hoping they stay and the HGV’s go!

  5. Julie Huntington says:

    I think these lights look wonderful- quite fairytale-and having navigated through the arches at night a great safety feature, too I have yet to see them in daylight as I did not even notice them and I cross the bridge every day, so they cannot be that bad! Why does the one dissenter on this forum not have the courage to sign his/her name? You are entitled to your opinion

  6. veebee says:

    We were surprised and delighted to see the lovely lights on the bridge for the first time on Tuesday night! They look absolutely gorgeous and I’m surprised that this hasn’t been done earlier! Definitely keep them up permanently as it makes the bridge stand out as a feature.

  7. Tony Smith says:

    Looking forward to seeing the ‘illuminated bridge’ on my visit to my hometown in May. Looks really attractive and at no cost to the ratepayers, who can object.? Yes, I know, there is always one.!!!!!

  8. The Vole says:

    Regardless of wether we like it or not:
    Is an “artist” permitted to just stick things on a Grade One Listed structure?

  9. Judy McAlpine says:

    Fantastic! How sad that it had to be left to an individual to do something so obvious. Clive is an absolute star: medals required.
    It seems as if people are constantly asking: “Why is Marlow so much more attractive to interesting shops and to shoppers thatn Henley?” Maybe because Marlow looks more welcoming? and of course less greedy landlords. So Clive is leading the way to making Henley more welcoming.. what next?

  10. Jill Adams says:

    Our historic bridge now stands out brilliantly with the lighting. Wonderful for those rowing, canoeing or just
    in their various boats. Well done Clive Hemsley! Please let them stay.

  11. Sam Jonkers says:

    It looks wonderful.. I am so glad that Clive has the imagination to make our lovely town even prettier. Well done – looking forward to your next idea.


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