Ilford station was opened on 20 June 1839 by the Eastern Counties Railway, along with the Mile End (temporary terminus) to Romford section of what was to become the Great Eastern Main Line. Between 1903 and 1947, trains also ran through to Woodford via Hainault via the Fairlop Loop, most of which was transferred to London Underground's Central line. The triangular junction (Seven Kings being the third point of the triangle) is now the site of the Ilford carriage sheds and also a maintenance depot operated by Bombardier Transportation. Freight trains used the connection from the Fairlop Loop to Seven Kings until 1956. Ilford was historically known as Great Ilford to differentiate it from nearby Little Ilford, in the London Borough of Newham. The name is first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Ilefort and means ford over the Hyle; an old name for the River Roding that means "trickling stream". The only complete skull of a mammoth discovered in the United Kingdom was unearthed in 1860 at the site where Boots the Chemist now stands in the High Road. The skull can now be seen in the Natural History Museum and other prehistoric animal remains can be seen at Redbridge Museum, Central Library, Ilford. Redevelopment has destroyed much of the evidence for early Ilford, but the oldest evidence for human occupation is the 1st and 2nd century BC Iron Age earthwork known as Uphall Camp. This was situated between the Roding and Ilford Lane.
The main entrance, in Cranbrook Road, was heavily rebuilt during the 1980s, with architecture in keeping with other contemporary buildings in Ilford, such as the Central Library. This stretch of Cranbrook Road was originally called Station Road but this name was transferred to a short portion of Havelock Street immediately opposite the station. There is also a rear entrance from York Road, open during peak hours only, from which the west (London) ends of the platforms can be reached via a footbridge. This entrance is convenient for access from north and west of the station. The station has five platforms, two "up" (headed west toward Liverpool Street) and two "down" (towards Shenfield). The fifth platform, platform 5, is a bay platform, allowing peak services into London to start at Ilford. Platforms 1 and 2 are typically used only during engineering works and line disruptions, as the two adjacent tracks are used for fast trains that do not call at most suburban stations. Immediately to the west of the station is a flyover that allows the fast tracks to change from being on the south side of the suburban tracks to being on the north. The tracks cross the River Roding at the same point, and pass under the North Circular Road.
The platforms are several metres below street-level, as the road rises up to pass over the railway line. The north side of the station is edged by an embankment lined with housing. The south side is lined with large buildings (the Valentine House office building, the former British Gas building now converted to residential use and a large British Telecom building, whose rooftop logo can be seen from passing trains) and platform level approximates to street-level by the far end of the station. Despite the steps to the platforms, wheelchair lifts are available by prior arrangement. There are two access stairways from the concourse to platforms 3 and 4. This is in order to segregate arriving and departing passengers. The down staircase goes immediately from the concourse to the station platform whilst the up staircase rises from approximately 100 m along the platform and is connected by an elevated walkway to the concourse. A second entrance and footbridge from York Road is open for passengers during the morning and evening peak periods. The station has wi-fi, help points, cash machines, payphones, toilets, a car park and waiting room.
Connections: National Rail. London Buses routes 25, 86, 123, 128, 145, 147, 150, 167, 169, 179, 296, 364, 366, 396, 462, W19, EL1 and EL2, 667 and 679 and night route N86 serve the station.