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The Temporary “Corona” Bridge Over The River Cam

A view of the temporary Corona Bridge from the river.

It may not seem like it, but Cambridge changes alot.

I mean sure, there are pictures of some of the colleges taken over 100 years ago that look like they could have been taken yesterday,

as displayed in this tiktok….

but there have been some big changes over the years. There is one change however in recent years, that has caused confusion and hilarity for many who have gone punting. In the interest of documenting history, we’re gonna talk about the extra bridge that people get to see on The River Cam, whether they want to or not.

Punters have given it a name: The “Corona” Bridge.

Despite only being on the river for a brief time, compared to the history of Cambridge that is, there have already been rumours spread about the bridge. I heard one punter say it was built by the military, another say it was donated by National Rail, and even one enthusiastic punter claim the bridge is the new Clare bridge.

All fun stories, none of them true.

“Corona” Bridge is a bailey bridge built by Barnes Construction, in conjunction with Smith & Wallwork Engineers, approved for the major construction and restoration work approved by Clare College. The main part of the work “Corona” Bridge is being used is the renewal and restoration of The Old Court of the college. All this work is costing around 41 million pounds, with over a quarter of that money going solely to fixing the roof and the maintenance of the external walls.

It was constructed in early October 2020, in the special time between Lockdown I: The Phantom Menace, and Lockdown II: Attack Of The Clones. The time of the construction is the reason for the it’s name, ‘cause much Coronavirus, or Covid-19 as we know it today, most of us hated it and wanted it to be gone as soon as possible.

Many of us punters at the time seemed to have thought as well that it was only going to be there for a few months. However, considering the extent of the work being done, this seemed fool-hardy. Clare College’s website indicates that construction could go on until 2026, just in time for the college’s Septuacentennial anniversary.

Some of the extreme renovations occurring include:

– Replacing 1,500 square-metres of lead gutters

– Repairing 11 chimneys and 285 windows

– £300,000 worth of improvements to fire safety regulations

Along with all that, away from the Old Court restorations is the construction of the river room cafe, which promises to make the college a more welcoming social hub for both students and visitors alike (even with it’s rather limited seating capacity of 76 which would be seating just over 10% of the student population).

Maybe it’s the Stockholm Syndrome kicking in, but I might find myself missing “Corona” Bridge when it’s gone. The way it ruined anyone’s selfie around that area, the clanging metal sound it’d make when you hit it with your pole, the bewilderment of tourists who actually believe you when you claim it’s a Victorian Bridge, it’s become a symbol of Cambridge’s continuing changes as it holds on to the past but also tries to look to the future. Half the reason the renovations are so expensive is due to the Old Court being a listed building, so alot of time and money is spent trying to renovate without desecrating the heritage of the building. It’s quite ironic as well having this temporary bailey bridge constructed next to Clare Bridge, the oldest bridge on the river.

So there you have it, a quick run-through of the rather recent history of “Corona” Bridge: The temporary bridge of The River Cam.

Whenever it does finally dissapear from the river, may we remember it fondly, of a very strange time in history