The longest bench in Britain was opened to the public in Littlehampton, West Sussex on the 30th July 2010.
The bench seats over 300 people along Littlehampton’s promenade, overlooking the town’s award-winning Blue Flag beach. Designed by Studio Weave, the structure sinuously travels along the promenade, meandering around lampposts, bending behind bins, and ducking down into the ground to allow access between the beach and the Green. 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 special places that can be added to throughout its lifetime.
The bench is made from thousands of tropical hardwood slats engraved with messages from its supporters. The timber is 100% reclaimed from sources including old seaside groynes and rescued from landfill. The beautiful variety of reclaimed timbers are interspersed with splashes of bright colour wherever the bench wiggles, bends or dips.
Accompanying the long bench are two bronze-finished steel monocoque loops that connect the promenade with the green behind it. As the bench arrives inside the twisting loops it goes a little bit haywire, bouncing of the walls and ceiling creating seats and openings. The loop contains the haywire stretch of bench and frames the views each way.
The project was initiated by Littlehampton residents and entrepreneurs Jane Wood and Sophie Murray, the mother and daughter pair responsible for the East and West Beach Cafés. An integral part of Sir Terry Farrell’s Waterfront Strategy for Littlehampton, the Longest Bench joins Jane Wood’s ongoing contributions to the town’s regeneration.
To inspire and develop the project, Studio Weave worked with pupils from Connaught Junior School who explored what makes Littlehampton’s seaside unique and offered insightful ideas including the bright colour pallet and dynamic shelters.
The design allows the landmark bench to keep growing up to at least 621m, seating over 800 and putting Littlehampton in the record books. The first phase was funded through a £450,000 grant from the Sea Change Programme run by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), which aims to help the regeneration of seaside towns.
A generous private donation of £100,000 was also made by Gordon Roddick as a tribute to his late wife Anita. Anita and Gordon started the Body Shop in Littlehampton and the head office is located in the town.
Mr Roddick said “Anita loved Littlehampton and was very keen to do whatever she could to help raise the profile of the town. She was fully supportive of the idea for the bench and would be delighted to see it.”