There has been a bridge crossing the Foss river from the mid twelfth century, when a wooden construction was built to span the river. By 1500 a new stone bridge had been built to replace the wooden bridge.
In 1809, The York Herald reported that the Corporation of York were looking to develop the bridges over the Ouse and the Foss. It was noted that there was no provision for tolls to be charged for Foss Bridge, and that the bridge improvements would have to be paid for by public subscription. Improvements to Foss Bridge were also expected to be funded in the same way.
Later on in 1809, Richard Thompson gave a sum of 300 pounds towards Foss Bridge, and it was noted that the bridge would greatly benefit the residents of East Riding, who would no longer have to pay a toll charge to enter the city of York.
Work on the bridge started in 1811, replacing the older wooden bridge which bridged the river. The bridge was designed by Peter Atkinson and was completed in 1812.