The name relates to the local lime kilns or, more precisely, lime oasts, by the river and operated by the large potteries that served shipping in the London Docks. The name is from Old English līm-āst "lime-oast". The earliest reference is to Les Lymhostes, in 1356. The name 'Limehouse' is sometimes mistakenly thought to be derived from the nickname for the seamen that disembarked there, who had earned the name Lime-juicers or limeys after the obligatory ration of lime juice the Royal Navy gave their sailors to ward off scurvy. From the Tudor era until the 20th century, ships crews were employed on a casual basis. New and replacement crews would be found wherever they were available - foreign sailors in their own waters being particularly prized for their knowledge of currents and hazards in ports around the world. Crews would be paid off at the end of their voyages and, inevitably, permanent communities of foreign sailors became established, including colonies of Lascars and Africans from the Guinea Coast. Large Chinese communities at both Limehouse and Shadwell developed, established by the crews of merchantmen in the opium and tea trades, particularly Han Chinese. The area achieved notoriety for opium dens in the late 19th century. The station was opened on 6 July 1840 by the Commercial Railway, located in the parish of Stepney within the hamlet of Ratcliff. It was named Stepney, lying between Shadwell and a separate station called Limehouse, located within the Limehouse parish.
On 31 July 1987 the Docklands Light Railway, which operated over the old LBR line, commenced operations, with new platforms (platforms 3 and 4) built on the site of the old LBR platforms; the station had been renamed Limehouse on 11 May that year. The DLR platforms were extended in 1991 to accommodate the DLR's new longer two-carriage trains. Since the opening of the DLR, Limehouse has become a well-used interchange for Essex and east London commuters who work in the Canary Wharf area, but the two viaducts remained separate, resulting in an awkward interchange between the DLR platforms and the National Rail platforms, as passengers had to pass down and then up flights of stairs. To remedy this, at least in part, a bridge was built to connect the westbound (London-bound) mainline platform with the adjacent eastbound (Canary Wharf-bound) DLR platform. It was originally due for completion by the end of 2008, but was finally opened in November 2009. At the same time as the bridge was being built, other improvements were made, including readying the station for three-carriage operations on the DLR and the construction of an additional eastern entrance, with lifts and stairways for platform access. The National Rail platforms have one entrance accessed via a stairwell at the western end, while the DLR platforms have entrances at both the western and eastern ends, each equipped with stairwells and lifts. The westbound mainline platform is connected to the eastbound DLR platform by a walkway bridge.
Connections: National Rail. London Buses routes 15, 115, 135 and D3 and night routes N15, N550 and N551 serve the station.