It was built between 1863 and 1869, at a cost of over £2 million, and was the first flyover in central London. It replaced a much older structure; Holborn Bridge, which crossed the River Fleet already culverted to the Thames a century earlier. The viaduct spanned the steep-sided Holborn Hill and the River Fleet valley at a length of 1,400 ft, and 80 ft wide. City surveyor William Haywood was the architect, engineer was Rowland Mason Ordish, and it was opened by Queen Victoria at the same time as Blackfriars Bridge.
Four statues on the parapets represent commerce and agriculture on the south side, both by sculptor Henry Bursill, and science and fine art on the north side, by the sculpture firm Farmer & Brindley. Staircases provide pedestrian access from the bridge to Farringdon Street below.