Feature, Outdoor, Transport

Council backs down over illegal ‘guerrilla’ bridge lighting

Clive Hemsley’s lighting scheme for Henley Bridge comprises two circuits of over 800 LED luminaires. It receives its power from an electrical socket in Hemsley’s local public house, the Angel on the Bridge

THE ILLEGAL ‘guerrilla lighting’ on Henley Bridge in Oxfordshire has had a temporary reprieve as the local authority appeared to back down on its demands that it be removed.

The extensive lighting installation – comprising over 800 LED lights – was designed and fitted by local activist Clive Hemsley who believes the 200-year-old structure deserves to be illuminated at night.

Hemsley hopes that the freelance lighting scheme – which receives its power from an electrical socket in Hemsley’s local public house, the Angel on the Bridge – will prompt Oxfordshire County Council to light the bridge professionally.

Local planning chiefs from the District Council ordered Hemsley to remove the illegal addition to the Grade-1 listed bridge but Hemsley says he hasn’t been able to because ‘river conditions’ mean removal is currently ‘unsafe’.

The amateur lighting design has received backing from Henley’s residents, over 2,400 of whom have signed a petition to retain the lights.

And both local authorities have indicated that they are not against the illumination of the bridge but that it must be done to the proper procedures and with the appropriate planning permissions.

‘I think we’re still in the period where the town council is assessing how successful the lights have been,’ Hemsley told his local newspaper, the Henley Standard.

‘I would imagine the district and county councils are holding back for the time being to see what kind of feedback they get. All I know is that I haven’t heard from anyone in a while and I’m not in jail yet!’

Hemsley says the lighting ‘makes perfect sense, both from a tourist’s and a local’s point of view’.

‘We feature other ancient buildings in Henley, such as 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.’

Local resident Michaela Clarke, who started the online petition to have the scheme retained, said 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 light bulb, Clive’s project has given the bridge a warm soft white light against the beautiful yellow ham stone’.

Hemsley says he is now busy working on another, even more ambitious bridge lighting project, this time the famous William Clark-designed suspension bridge at Marlow, further along the river.

Marlow Bridge was illuminated until 2003 when the lights were vandalised and never restored. He claims he was invited to do by the town’s mayor, Jocelyn Towns.


  • The Lighting for Transport and Infrastructure conference is one of a range of events taking place as part of the LuxLive 2018 exhibition at London ExCeL. The show is open on Wednesday 14 November and Thursday 15 November 2018. See the full programme HERE.






Main picture: Richard Quartermaine via FlickrMedia Commons 2018 All rights reserve