The first station was opened by the London and Blackwell Extension Railway (LBER) on 2 April 1849. This line served the first station on the site, named Bow and Bromley and located north of Bow Road itself, on a viaduct. Trains would, if there was a connecting service, run on to an interchange station called Victoria Park and Bow, otherwise services terminated at Bow and Bromley. The London and Blackwall Railway (LBR) was leased four years later in 1866 and some 10 years later on 1 October 1876 the GER built a new station south of Bow Road, which they aptly named Bow Road. Why they did not use the original site of Bromley and Bow station is unclear, but the new station had wooden platforms that had to be cantilevered off the viaduct. In 1892 Bow Road passenger station was re-sited to the north and an interchange walkway provided with the neighbouring NLR's Bow station. This station was closed in 1949. The current station was opened in 1902 by the Whitechapel and Bow Railway (which was later incorporated into the District line), with the Hammersmith & City line (then the Metropolitan line) following in 1936.
Originally called Stratford, in 1110 Matilda, wife of Henry I, reputedly took a tumble at the ford on her way to Barking Abbey, and ordered a distinctively bow-shaped, three-arched bridge to be built over the River Lea, The like of which had not been seen before; the area became known variously as Stradford of the Bow, Stratford of the Bow, Stratford the Bow, Stratforde the Bowe, and Stratford-atte-Bow' (at the Bow) which over time was shortened to Bow. The station booking hall is a Grade II listed building. Bow Road marks the point where westbound trains from Upminster and Barking enter a tunnel; the gradient of the tunnel approach, which is to the east of the station, is 1 in 28, the steepest on the tube network. It is about 300 metres from Bow Church DLR station and is in fare zone 2. Out of station interchange (OSI) is allowed between the stations. The station has a bridge, payphones and a waiting room.
Connections: Bow Church station on the Docklands Light Railway is nearby. Hammersmith + City Line. London Buses routes 25, 205 and 425, and night route N205 serve the station.