At one time there were three mills using the flow of water into the Mill Pool on the River Cam and this was also the end of the river navigable by commercial barges. As the colleges grew and also the population of
the town increased, large amounts of coal and food were brought to Cambridge by travelling up the Cam from Kings Lynn. Mike illustrated a journey down the river from the Mill Pool with a series of photos and drawings of the bridges starting with Silver Street.
The original wooden bridge was replaced with a cast iron bridge in the 19th century but the unstable banks caused cracking and in 1957 the present stone bridge was built.
From early times there were two other crossings which still exist today. These are at Garret Hostel Lane and Magdalene Street. The other bridges belong to the colleges.
Travelling down the Cam from Silver Street the first college bridge is known as the mathematical bridge at Queens followed by King’s College bridge and then Clare bridge which is the oldest still used bridge in Cambridge, opened in 1640 and is Grade 1 listed.
Next is Garret Hostel bridge followed by Trinity bridge and Trinity kitchen bridge and St. John’s Bridge of Sighs which is enclosed because this was the first college with buildings on both sides of the river.
Continuing down river, Magdalene Bridge is next and it was another cast iron bridge. This too was cracking under the movement of the banks and the volume of traffic but as one of the remaining cast iron bridge in the country it was it was reinforced in the early 1970s and is now Grade 2 listed. Barges came as far as this bridge pulled by horses along a towpath but the towpath ended here and barges had to continue
upstream with a bargee riding a horse up the middle of the river.
The draining of the Fens led to the formation of the Conservators of the Cam in the 1790s with responsibility of maintaining the river level which was done by creating locks at Jesus Green and Baites Bite.
The Victoria Road bridge was a completely new bridge opened in 1890 to link the growing population of Chesterton with Cambridge. The last new bridge in the city to be opened in 1970 was in Queen Elizabeth Way.
The coming of the railway led to the rail bridge across Ditton Meadows. Footbridge/cycle bridges replaced the ferries at various points and the 20th century commercial boatyards gradually changed over to pleasure craft.
One other interesting bit of information was that in the 18th century a canal linking London and Cambridge was planned in order to avoid the long route round the East Coast and down the Cam. However, the coming of the railway put an end to this idea.