The River Cam

History of the River Cam

The River Cam has been navigable at least since Roman times, and from the Middle Ages onwards, barges were used to bring heavy goods to Cambridge.



Barges brought stone for the College and University buildings (including King’s College Chapel). They also carried the goods for trading at Midsummer Fair. Cambridge was supplied with fuel, food and other supplies by boat until as late as 1951.


In addition, a variety of boathouses, ferries for crossings and industrial boats going to and from the gasworks on Riverside plied their trade on the river.

With the coming of the railway in 1845, the industrial traffic on the river waned, leaving the river purely for recreational and residential use.

The last thirty years have seen a renaissance in the use of the river. There are now more than 2,000 rowers registered at over 30 boathouses in Cambridge. There are also a large number or liveaboard boats. This means the river is probably more heavily used and more popular than at any time in its rich history.

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