A £76 million project to construct a flood scheme to better protect 1,100 businesses in the Kendal area and make them more resilient in the future is now well underway.

The Kendal Flood Risk Management Scheme (FRMS), aims to protect 1,100 businesses and 1,400 homes in the area.

The government scheme, once it is completed in the autumn/winter of 2025, is aimed at improving economic stability, protecting businesses which employ 6,105 people and saving £725 million, the estimated cost of future flood damage.

The Environment Agency, who are delivering the scheme, estimate the project will add £277 million to the local economy.

Environment Agency programme manager for Kendal FRMS, Keith Roddy says: “During construction, local firms and specialists are being employed and materials sourced locally wherever possible.

“So far during construction over 60 per cent of the outlay has been spent locally, benefitting the Kendal local economy.

“Through managing flood risk in Kendal and reducing flood damage costs, the scheme will also help to provide future stability to the local economy.”

The first completed section of the scheme has also uncovered more about the industrial and economic history which formed the foundation of trade and business in Kendal.

Keith says: “Whenever modern developments are planned, several environmental factors have to be considered, including the protection of watercourses, trees, wildlife, plants, and archaeology, to make sure there is no accidental damage.

“Our planning system states that cultural heritage and archaeology are important to a community’s sense of place, wellbeing, and health. Archaeologists are often brought in when excavations happen in areas where archaeological remains are likely and are also sometimes brought in ahead of any construction works occurring, to record features as they are revealed.”

In Cumbria:

One of the main focuses of the archaeological works was the area to the south of the parish church and stretching southwards next to the river Kent and down to Nether Bridge. This area marked the southern boundary of the medieval heart of Kendal.

The plans involved a deep excavation adjacent to the river Kent and around the Parish Hall, south of the churchyard boundary, to allow for the substantial foundations required for the new flood wall. A trial trench had been excavated during the design phase of the works, and human remains were encountered.

The industrial heritage of Kendal has also been uncovered. In the 1400s Kendal developed as a key textile centre, based on the sheep grazing the surrounding landscape and aided by the river, which was important for industry as a means of power and transport, as well as a raw material and domestic purposes.

In the area to the west of the Waterside Flats, walls, cobbled surfaces, and wells represented the remains of small-scale cottage industry.

A rectangular tank was found close to one well, with a number of glass bottles within, each engraved ‘Whitakers and Co Colourworks Kendal.’

The textile industry and its demand for workers fuelled Kendal’s rapid growth from the late 1600s. During the 1700s and 1800s, yards which linked street frontages to the riverside gradually became more cramped and over-populated, leading to ill health and disease. Many were cleared in the 1900s. The Kendal Scheme archaeologists have found the only surviving remains of where the poorest in Kendal had lived and worked for several generations.

The Kendal scheme received European Union funding and is being delivered by the Environment Agency, designed by Jacobs and WSP. The contractor undertaking the on-site works in the parish church area and on other parts of the scheme is VolkerStevin Ltd and the archaeological investigations are being undertaken by staff from Wardell Armstrong.

An exhibition about the findings from the Kendal FRMS excavations and history of Kendal will be on display at Holy Trinity Parish Church in Kendal as part of Heritage Week, September 8-17.