The Rochester Bridge Trust Arkwright Engineering Scholars

Historic engineering supports future engineers

The Rochester Bridge Trust was founded in 1399 and is the only surviving independent bridge trust that still serves its original purpose. That purpose is to provide passage over, under or across the River Medway, from medieval times to the present day, and in order to achieve this, the Trust carries out a range of activities, from everyday bridge maintenance to encouraging and supporting the civil engineers of tomorrow.

As engineering is a broad, far-reaching career, so the path into it is equally varied, with the Trust promoting a range of activities and experience to encourage children of all ages to realise the potential of this exciting career. Initiatives include hands-on activity days, tours, film screenings, and participating in the Arkwright scheme.

Being a Bridge Wardens Arkwright Scholar has given me the chance to learn about modern engineering while making the most of the knowledge and experience of an historic organisation. I’ve really enjoyed the range of experiences the Rochester Bridge Trust has arranged for us to take part in, and to be able to share them with other students has been a great way to meet others with the same interests as me. – Silke Heyse, Bridge Wardens Arkwright Scholar

The Trust supported its first Bridge Wardens Arkwright Scholars in 2010. One of those students, Joshua, went on to achieve a first in his Masters degree and is now studying towards a doctorate, while Jessica opted for more on-the-job training, interspersing her studies with several work placements – as well as international study in Korea – and is due to graduate this year.

While the Trust’s priority is bridges and therefore civil engineering, the activities offered to its scholars are of a broader nature, taking in a range of engineering projects and experiences, as well as mentoring and support to prepare scholars for the world of work.

This begins with an introductory lunch at the Institution of Civil Engineers, a building it is hoped the scholars will one day become very familiar with. During this lunch, the young people and their parents get to meet members of the Trust, its engineers and education officers, as well as previous scholars. It is here that the first tentative connections for the years ahead are made.

All scholars are given the opportunity to take a tour of Rochester’s bridges, guided over, under and into otherwise locked areas to discover the engineering of the historic Old Bridge, with more modern bridges running alongside. This tour is led by one of the Trust’s engineers from Arcadis, and is an early opportunity for the scholars to question someone working in their future career.

We host a range of tours with the aim of bringing engineering to life for our scholars. Parents and family members are invited to join in because this is an excellent opportunity for them to find out more and be able to better support the Scholar at home.

The scheme is a great way for us to support and inspire the civil engineers of tomorrow and we are very proud of the young people we have worked with. – Aileen White, Education Officer

No two scholarship years are the same, and so past and present Bridge Wardens Scholars are invited to attend the various activities organised by the Rochester Bridge Trust. These have included visiting the London Postal Tunnels, Dungeness Nuclear Power Station and walking over the O2 dome, as well as various active construction sites. At least one engineer joins each visit, accompanying the scholars to answer questions along the way. Tours end with a question and answer session in a café – much like Thomas Telford used to do 200 years ago – giving the scholars the opportunity to discuss what they’ve seen as a group and further question the engineers about their experiences.

This opportunity to question, learn and develop is an important part of being a Bridge Wardens Arkwright Scholar, with mentoring and career advice available. Work experience placements and support to attend training have also taken place, with scholars encouraged to make the opportunities that will help them towards their career.

Click here to see profiles of previous scholars.

The Trust owns and maintains the road and service bridges over the Medway at Rochester and has contributed to the cost of many other Medway crossings over the centuries. It makes charitable grants and supports other charitable and educational projects in Kent.

The Trust’s income derives from 14th and 15th century endowments, and assets are carefully managed to provide funds for bridge maintenance and future replacement as well as charitable activities. It provides its services entirely free to the public. The Trust receives no external funding and is regulated by the Charity Commission.