The first bridge recorded over the river at the present site of Ouse Bridge was made of wood in Viking times. This bridge collapsed into the river in 1154 because too many people were standing on it at the same time when awaiting the arrival of St William of York, who was returning to the city.
In 1367 the first public toilets in Yorkshire, and possibly England, were built on the bridge. This was when the bridge had an array of shops and houses actually as part of the bridge itself. However, this weight caused the bridge to partly collapse in early 1565 when snow and flooding damaged the fabric of the structure. When the collapse took place, it destroyed twelve houses and killed twelve people, which all fell straight into the river.
The new replacement bridge was opened in 1566, and it had a prison built underneath, known as a kidcote. There were also residential accommodation built, and there was also a court above. It was also the site of St. William’s chapel. The City Commissioners met in rooms on the bridge until 1810 when the bridge was demolished.
In 1795, it was recommended in a report to the City Commissioners that the stone bridge should be demolished and replaced with an iron bridge. It took some time for these recommendations to be followed however, but in 1809 a design competition was held to decide which design would be used.
In 1810, the old stone bridge was demolished and work on what is now the present Ouse bridge was started, which was completed in 1812. To pay for its costs, the bridge was tolled until 1829 when the charges were dropped.