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Flooding and Flood Alleviation

Flooding is generally caused by excessive rainfall, melting snow or very high sea levels. It has been going on for thousands of years but man's interference with the natural state of the river can have a significant effect on flooding.
Many properties over the years have been built in the natural flood plain of the river or in low-lying areas near the sea.

River Kent - Kendal

Flooding 1954
The town of Kendal, which has developed along the banks of the River Kent, has a history of flooding which has been recorded as far back in history as the 17th century when the Castle Mills Area and the Parish Church were effected by flood water.

The flood of November 1898 is thought to be the highest recorded flood in Kendal.

The flooding of land and property in Kendal happened to some extent once in every 10 years, this being known as a flood frequency of 1 in 10 years.



On the 2nd December 1954 the highest flood since 1898 was recorded in the town.

In total almost 300 houses were flooded, in excess of 70 other properties including shops, factories, schools and churches were also affected with many more isolated by the flood water.

At the height of the flood 158,000 m2 of land in and around Kendal was under water.

At the peak of the flood approximately 280 m3 of water per second was flowing through Kendal.

River Kent - Kendal Flood Relief Scheme.

Following the Floods of 1954 and 1968, the then Lancashire River Authority designed a Flood Alleviation Scheme to reduce the risk of flooding to the majority of Kendal. The design criteria were to convey, without flooding, 280m3 of water per second (280cumecs) this being the peak flow of the 1954 flood, through Kendal.

Construction work on the Flood Alleviation Scheme or as it was then called River Kent - Kendal Flood Relief Scheme started in 1972, the work was undertaken in 6 Phases or sections and took 6 years to complete at a cost of approximately 1 million.


To achieve the requirements of the design, improvements were carried out on 5.6 km of the river from below Watercrook up to Mintsfeet on the north side of Kendal.

The work involved the widening and, in some locations, deepening of the river channel.

The section of river between Nether Bridge and Miller Bridge, in the centre of the town, was originally only 20 metres wide at its narrowest point and this was widened to 38 meters. Almost 36,000 m3 of gravel and soil was removed from this section alone.


During the 6 phases of the Scheme 240,000 m' of surplus material or spoil was removed from the river channel the majority of which was used to fill agricultural land on the south side of Kendal which is now the location of a Business Park and Asda.

Where the river was deepened the foundations to the existing river walls needed to be protected or strengthened and this was achieved by the construction of stone faced concrete buttressing to the base of the walls. Where the river was widened new walls or Limestone block bank protection was built. In total over 2000m of buttressing and 1700m of new walls were constructed.

It was also necessary to protect and in some cases deepen the foundations of the existing bridges throughout the town.

Due to the need to open up the river to almost twice it's original width in the section below Miller Bridge a new footbridge was built to replace the original Jennings Yard Bridge.

To prevent the riverbed from becoming dried out at times of low flows small weirs were built across the river at regular intervals.


Heslington Weir As part of the Flood Alleviation scheme earth embankments were built to prevent flooding at Mintsfeet and also at Helsington.

At Helsington an automatic flood control gate was fitted to the Millrace to prevent floodwater from entering and flooding the properties protected by the embankment.

The build up of gravel within a river can greatly reduce the size of the channel and seriously effect the ability of the river to cope with flood flows. The River Kent transports many tonnes of gravel at times of flood, which is then deposited as the river slows.

To enable the river gravel to be removed more easily and to minimise the accumulation of gravel within the town section of the river, a large lagoon was constructed at the confluence of the River Kent and River Mint on the north side of the town, the purpose of the lagoon is as a gravel trap.

As the river enters the gravel trap the flow slows and the gravel is deposited. The quantity of gravel within the gravel trap is monitored and then at frequent intervals removed.

In 1985 a flood of the same magnitude as that of 1954 passed through Kendal and was fully contained with no flooding within the protected area.

Related Topics

Map of River Kent

Photograph Galleries

Kendal Flood Alleviation Photograph Gallery

Map of Kendal