The bridge was designed by the Department of Public Works of the ZAR, under the guidance of Sytze Wierda. It was built by JJ Kirkness and was officially opened by President Kruger on 11 June 1894. It is the oldest existing bridge over the Apies River and the only such structure remaining from the ZAR era in the centre of Pretoria. It The ‘Leeubrug’ was built larger and stronger than the previous bridge (Arcadia Bridge) which it replaced to better withstand floods. It is unclear where the name comes from but suggestions are that it possibly came from the amount of lions that were hunted in that area at the time or from the lions on the ZAR coat of arms. The bronze lions were made in Scotland and originally there were also two gas lamps on each sideof the bridge.
It was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on 31 December 1981.