Exterior lighting specialist DW Windsor has carried out a full refurbishment of the historic lighting on Wandsworth Bridge in London, sensitively restoring it to its original condition as part of a multi-million pound renovation and upgrade. The project, which also included converting the lighting to LED, has resulted in a 65% energy saving – reducing costs and minimising the environmental impact.
Wandsworth Bridge was designed in 1935 to replace the original 1873 crossing, which was no longer suitable. Work began in 1937, and it was opened in September 1940, delayed by a year due to the outbreak of World War Two. The blue colour scheme of the bridge, maintained to this day, was chosen to help camouflage this vital Thames crossing from air raids. Today Wandsworth Bridge is one of the busiest in London.
The bridge upgrade scheme was managed by a combined Wandsworth and Richmond Upon Thames council team, as the two boroughs operate a shared staffing policy. The scheme, delivered by VolkerLaser, included structural repairs, resurfacing, waterproofing and corrosion protection work, alongside the aesthetic restoration of the bridge to its original appearance.
A key part of the project was the challenging restoration of the heritage lanterns and columns. The lighting was also upgraded to energy-efficient LEDs to achieve energy savings of approximately 65%. The quality of the illumination was a consideration to ensure pedestrian and road safety with a minimum road lighting standard of ME3. The lighting also needed to minimise light spill onto the river and surrounding areas to avoid disrupting both people and nocturnal animals.
The lanterns are those originally installed on the bridge in the 1930s, albeit with minor upgrades in the decades since it was built. The bridge features a total of 20 lanterns, with four larger wall-mounted lanterns at each end of the bridge and eight smaller column-mounted ones in between.
DW Windsor was approached and subsequently selected for this crucial element of the project due to its experience in the careful restoration of historic lighting assets and its previous work on lighting across Battersea Bridge and other prominent bridge projects.
Andrew Porter, Principal Street Lighting Engineer serving Richmond and Wandsworth Councils, commented: “We know from experience that restorations such as this include many unknowns, and often the extent of the work required is not clear at the outset. Therefore, selecting the right partner that can reliably meet the demands of the wider project and achieve the necessary quality is essential. We needed to ensure that the work was completed correctly to prevent further work in the coming years and ensure that maintenance was minimised.”
Our aim is to retain as much of the original lanterns and columns as possible while replacing or repairing elements that are missing or no longer fit for purpose. This often requires the specialist skills of our in-house team to replicate the original craftsmanship as well as any bespoke casting or fabrication of components needed. On the Wandsworth Bridge project, we are pleased to say that we were able to restore around 95% of the original elements with only minor repairs required.
One of the challenges of the Wandsworth Bridge project was that, due to its original construction, the columns and lanterns would only fit in their original positions and orientations. As a result, each one had to be diligently catalogued and marked so that each could be identified and returned to the correct place on the bridge.
After all the lanterns and columns had been carefully disassembled and recorded by the team on site, they were delivered to the DW Windsor workshop. The DW Windsor restoration specialists then examined each lantern and column to evaluate the level of damage or corrosion that may have occurred, as well as how previous repairs may impact the work. DW Windsor then provided the council team with a full and detailed report of the condition of each and the work required to restore it.
Rob Maisey, Director of Operations at DW Windsor, explained the restoration process: “Our aim is to retain as much of the original lanterns and columns as possible while replacing or repairing elements that are missing or no longer fit for purpose. This often requires the specialist skills of our in-house team to replicate the original craftsmanship as well as any bespoke casting or fabrication of components needed. On the Wandsworth Bridge project, we are pleased to say that we were able to restore around 95% of the original elements with only minor repairs required.”
Another complication in restoring the lanterns and columns to their original appearance was matching the gold painted finish. DW Windsor worked with a paint mixing specialist to achieve a colour that closely replicated the original.
Each component of the lanterns was stripped back, and all paint and corrosion were removed. However, due to the lead-based paint used in the 1930s, this had to be carried out using a chemical process under carefully controlled conditions to ensure all risks were minimised. Due to the fragile and delicate nature of the original glass, which made it a safety concern, all the glazing needed to be replaced to comply with today’s standards. All components were repainted, with care taken in the application, to ensure a high-quality finish. The lanterns were then reassembled and resealed to bring them in line with modern standards and to protect the internal electronics from water ingress. Specially designed light shields were also created and installed within the lanterns to prevent light spill onto the river.
The restored lanterns were then delivered back to site for installation by the VolkerLaser team in three phases throughout the summer of 2022. Due to the care taken to ensure that each lantern retained its identifying markings throughout the process, each was reinstalled successfully in the correct location and orientation.
Discussing the outcome of the project, Andrew commented: “I am very pleased with the finished result. We have been able to return the bridge and its distinctive lanterns to their original condition, as well as improve the energy performance to help us meet environmental targets.
“In many ways, this was a challenging and demanding project, but DW Windsor helped ensure the process was as simple as possible despite the complications of working with 80-year-old assets.”
Guy Bolton, Special Projects Coordinator at DW Windsor concluded: “Restoring ‘icons of illumination’ such as those on Wandsworth Bridge is something we are passionate about. This project in particular, demonstrates the expertise of our craftspeople, and wider restoration team, in renewing and updating these heritage lanterns in a way that protects their history for future generations.
“Importantly too, it’s in line with today’s all-important circular economy principles. Refurbishment work, from simple upgrades to complete restorations, offer multiple environmental benefits; keeping existing lighting equipment in use for longer, reducing raw material usage and landfill waste, as well as helping to lower carbon emissions.”