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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

The Longest Bench

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas December. 10, 2020

The Long Bench at Littlehampton is thought to be the longest bench in Britain and one of the longest in the world. The wood and stainless steel bench ‘flows’ along the promenade at Littlehampton in West Sussex – curving round lamp posts and obstacles, twisting up into the seafront shelters, dropping down to paths and crossings. The bench was opened in July 2010 and can seat over 300 people. It was funded by Arun District Council and CABE’s ‘Sea Change’ capital grants programme for cultural and creative regeneration in seaside resorts. The bench was also supported by a private donation from Gordon Roddick as a tribute to his late wife Anita, the founder of The Body Shop, which first began trading in Littlehampton. It is designed by Studio Weave. Studio Weave is an award-winning RIBA Chartered Architecture Practice based in London. These photos from 2011.

The Long Bench is host to hundreds of special messages engraved into the hardwood slats that make up the long bench – they celebrate birthdays, weddings, special events as well as local achievements and triumphs. Many commemorate a loved one and invoke memories of happy times at the beach or in the area.

Two important incidents along the length of the site are the shelters, which were considered dirty and unsafe by the children: dividing rather than connecting spaces. We designed new Shelter Charms that are bronze-finished twisted monocoque forms, which have no front or back, with views of the sea framed by the looping bench.

The bench runs continuously from the seafront kiosks to the East Beach café, dipping, twisting and turning along the promenade. There are two shelters where the bench curves and bends into unusual shaped seats.

Like a seaside boardwalk the Longest Bench rests gently on its habitat and adapts to its surroundings while like a charm bracelet it connects and defines the promenade as a whole, underlining it as a collection of individual playful places that can be added to throughout its lifetime.

The Longest Bench is made from thousands of hardwood bars reclaimed from sources including old seaside groynes (including Littlehampton’s) and rescued from landfill. This simple component is arrayed to accommodate the complex shapes called for by the form of the wall and the activities which take place along it. The variety of reclaimed timbers are interspersed with splashes of bright colour wherever the bench wriggles, bends or dips.

We imagined the Longest Bench as a charm bracelet gifted to the town: a delicate piece of jewellery that can accommodate new and varied additions. The form of the bracelet’s chain is informed by the simple seaside boardwalk together with a mathematic theorem that envisages movement.

A charm bracelet consists of a simple chain, which is personalised with trinkets given as presents by friends or family. Each charm has its own unique story of travels, events and friendships.

Information compiled from Studio Weave and Longest Bench.

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John Durham
John Durham
Sep 05, 2022

A fantastic idea, incredible execution and so well captured. A wonderful look at another marvelous local icon from your wanderings. Thanks, Gethin!

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Sep 05, 2022
Replying to

Thanks John.

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