RECENT articles and correspondence in The Westmorland Gazette about the bridges in Kendal, and in particular Victoria Bridge, were of particular interest to me.

Major strengthening works also took place on the bridge in 1965 to take account of the increasing traffic loads.

As a newly appointed bridge engineer with Westmorland County Council in 1963, I was to investigate and, if found necessary, redesign a strengthened bridge to 1960s standards on behalf of the Ministry of Transport.

Just out of university, I was aware of a technique starting to be used on the new motorway bridges called composite design. On Victoria Bridge it was used as a modern method to interconnecting weak wrought-iron beams with strong modern concrete. It had never been used before on a historic Victorian structure. The original bridge was built using wrought iron, which was at the forefront of Victorian technology, but it was a weak material by modern standards and inadequate for increasing traffic loads.

In the 1960s there were fewer cars and lorries but the work still involved single-line traffic and a degree of congestion. The M6 was not built and all abnormal loads travelled over the bridge through Kendal. The bridge foundations were inspected at the time and considered adequate, but this was before Storm Desmond of 2015.

The foundation stone for Victoria Bridge was laid on September 13, 1886. It was opened on June 18, 1887 by Mr R Nelson, the mayor of Kendal, and cost £4,000 to build..

The consultant for the original design was Gilbert Gilkes, a very small engineering firm in Kendal, and it was built by Mr J Shewell, a Darlington construction firm.

My novel deck design was an innovative method of strengthening a wrought-iron bridge, never used before, which became the subject of a technical paper presented at the Institution of Civil Engineers in London.

The paper won the institution's Miller prize, a prestigious award in competition with other papers throughout the UK for its innovative technique.

The novel design has stood the test of time over 55 years without any maintenance problems and there is no reason why it should not last another 55 years.

As a bridge engineer in Westmorland County Council, I went on to strengthen five other masonry arch bridges in Kendal and to build motorway bridges throughout the UK. But the strengthening of Victoria Bridge in 1963 was one of the most interesting and novel structural designs I have undertaken in my civil engineering career.

Mike Rayworth

Appin, Argyll