The station was opened by the Eastern Counties Railway on 22 August 1856. In turn it became, from 1862, part of the Great Eastern Railway system and then in 1923 part of the London & North Eastern Railway before being transferred to London Transport in 1947. This formed part of the "New Works Programme 1935 - 1940" that was to see major changes at Leytonstone with the station becoming the junction of the existing Epping branch, newly electrified, with the new tube tunnel running under Eastern Avenue towards Newbury Park. This work saw a complete reconstruction of the station along with the removal of the level crossing at Church Lane and its replacement by an underbridge. The work stopped in May 1940 due to wartime priorities; further delays were caused by the station buildings being hit by a German bomb in January 1944. During the war, the new tunnels were used as an aircraft component factory; the part closest to Leytonstone was a public air-raid shelter.
The main thoroughfare, High Road Leytonstone, running the length of Leytonstone to Stratford, is an ancient pathway dating to pre-Roman times.The stone and obelisk Roman archaeological features have been found in the area. There was a Roman cemetery south of Blind Lane, and massive foundations of some Roman building, with quantities of Roman brick, were discovered in the grounds of Leyton Grange. The High Stone at the junction of Hollybush Hill and New Wanstead, near the eastern boundary of the parish at the junction of the roads from Woodford and Woodford Bridge, is a restored 18th-century obelisk set up on an earlier stump which has been traditionally described as a Roman milestone. Alfred Hitchcock, Leytonstone's most celebrated resident, was born at 517 High Road. The station subway features a series of mosaics which include scenes from Hitch’s best-loved films including Vertigo, Strangers on a Train and North by Northwest, as well as key moments in his life such as the grocery shop.
The station has three platforms. The centre platform is generally used for through services going westbound, but can be used to terminate trains from both directions. However, due to the configuration of the tracks, trains going eastbound from this platform can only access the Epping branch. Trains needing access to the Hainault branch can do so by shunting west of the station, and then running into the normal eastbound platform via a crossover. The ticket hall is accessed from a subway which runs between Grove Green Road and Church Lane. The station has wi-fi, payphones, toilets, a waiting room and car park.
Connections: London Buses routes 66; 145; 257; 339; W13; W14; W15; W16; W19 and night route N8 serve the tube and bus station.