Stratford station was opened on 20 June 1839 by the Eastern Counties Railway (ECR). The Northern and Eastern Railway opened a section of its authorised line from Broxbourne to join the ECR at Stratford on 15 September 1840. As well as a station, a railway works was built adjacent to the line to Broxbourne. This and the engine shed later expanded into the area to the west of the station which is now occupied by a shopping centre and Stratford International station. At its peak, the works employed over 2,500 many of whom had homes, along with other rail workers, in the town that developed nearby. It was originally called Hudson Town, after George Hudson, the "Railway King;", but after his involvement in bribery and fraud was revealed in 1849, the settlement quickly became better known as Stratford New Town, which by 1862 had a population of 20,000. Services to Loughton commenced on 22 August 1856 and used the Lea Valley platforms, leaving the main line at Loughton Junction half a mile north of Stratford. Initially nine trains per day operated to Fenchurch Street (Bishopsgate on Sundays) on this route.
The name is first recorded in 1067 as Strætforda and means 'ford on a Roman road'. It is formed from Old English 'stræt' and 'ford'. The crossing is that of the London to Colchester road over one of the many branches of the River Lea to the west of the settlement. Stratford was originally an agricultural community, whose proximity to London provided a ready market for its produce. By the 18th century, the area around Stratford was noted for potato growing, a business that continued into the mid-1800s. Stratford also became a desirable country retreat for wealthy merchants and financiers, within an easy ride of the City. An early industrial undertaking at Stratford was the Bow porcelain factory, which despite the name, was on the Essex side of the River Lea. Using a process that was patented in 1744, Edward Heylin and Thomas Frye operated a factory near Bow Bridge called "New Canton" to produce some of the first soft-paste porcelain to be made in the country. The site of the factory was to the north of Stratford High Street near the modern Bow Flyover; it was the subject of archaeological excavations in 1921 and 1969.
Platforms 3, 3A and 6 are used by the Central line, which rise from their tunnels onto the overground here and then immediately descend back underground upon departure from Stratford. Platforms 3 and 6 are island platforms providing cross-platform interchange with the local "Shenfield metro" trains (TfL Rail/Crossrail) operating from platforms 5 (Eastbound to Liverpool Street) and 8 (Westbound to Shenfield) respectively, while platform 3A has a direct step-free connection at mezzanine level, facilitating easier interchange with Jubilee line trains on platforms 13 to 15 and DLR trains on platforms 4A and 4B. Westbound Central line trains travelling towards central London open doors on both sides so that passengers can alight and board trains from either side, reducing dwell times and peak-hour congestion in the passageways. The station has cash machines, Euro cash machines, lifts, toilets, boarding ramps, wi-fi, escalators and payphones.
Connections: Jubilee Line, Central Line, Greater Anglia, c2c, DLR and London Overground. London Buses routes 25; 69, 86, 97, 104, 108, 158, 238 241, 257, 262, 276, 308, 339, 425, 473 and D8 serve the station with night routes N8, N86, N205.