Cavenagh Bridge is named after the last Governor of the Straits Settlements-Colonel Orfeur Cavenagh (1859-67). He was succeeded by Colonel Sir Harry St George Ord (1867-73), the first Governor of the Straits Settlements when Penang, Malacca and Singapore became a Crown Colony. Singaporeans could express their view in the Straits Settlements Legislative Council which was established in 1867 under the new constitution.

The Bridge was manufactured in Scotland in 1868 by P. W. MacLellan, Engineers, Glasgow. The Bridge was assembled by Indian convicts, the last major project undertaken by them. Built in 1869, it saved residents the trouble of crossing the Singapore River by ferry to Empress Place. It coast ÂĽ cent each trip.

The use of the Bridge was prohibited to any vehicle of which the laden weight exceeded 3 cwt and to all cattle and horses.