Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey
Surveyor to the Fabric
Clerk of the Works
Ian Bartlett/ Jim Vincent (ret.)
Deputy Clerk of the Works, Iain McDonald
Westminster Abbey Clerk of the Works Department / DFB Electrical
Having completed a lighting strategy for the interior of Westminster Abbey in 2016, Speirs Major have recently completed the first phase of the re-lighting project with the Nave, Quire, North and South Transepts, Crossing and Sacrarium re-lit by a state-of-the-art LED installation operated by a largely wireless control system. The two major elements of the re-lighting project - the refurbishment of the sixteen existing Waterford crystal chandeliers, and the provision of spotlighting from high-level - required a substantive testing, mock-up and approvals process, before being designed in detail and implemented by the Abbey's works department in a phased process taking the best part of a year.
A new adjustable spotlighting system added at Triforium level provides the principle functional light to the Abbey floor, and accent to areas and objects of liturgical significance.
The system also allows the beautiful form and detailing of the roof vaulting to be fully revealed after dark for the first time in the building's history. The system is designed to minimise the number of attachment points to the historic fabric of the building while optimising flexibility in positioning.
All of the spotlighting is dimmable and controlled wirelessly using a Bluetooth based control system, reducing the amount of cabling and minimising adverse impact to the historic building fabric. The lighting is programmed to provide numerous scenes to respond to various liturgies and for other uses, including tourism.
The maximum lighting levels are now considerably brighter if required, so television crews will not necessarily require as much supplementary lighting for broadcast and filming.
For more than forty years, the Waterford lead crystal chandeliers provided the majority of the electric lighting to the main body of the Abbey, becoming ever brighter over the years to try to maximise the amount of light in the space. In replacing the light sources within the chandeliers with dimmable, colour temperature tuneable LED modules, their role has evolved into one of supplementing the newly provided functional lighting at high level. The LED modules enable the light from the chandeliers to adapt to complement changes in natural light throughout the day, while the reduced brightness overall makes the beauty of the crystal more readily appreciated.
The tuneable LED modules are capable of a wide variety of colours - including blue as a tribute to NHS workers during the pandemic.