The original station was one of the oldest on the network, and was built over a spring. First opened by the East London Railway on 10 April 1876, it was first served by the District Railway and Metropolitan Railway on 1 October 1884. It was renamed Shadwell & St. George-in-the-East on 1 July 1900 but reverted to its original name in 1918. In the 13th century, the area was known as Scadflet and Shatfliet – derived from the Anglo-Saxon fleot, meaning a shallow creek or bay – the land was a low lying marsh, until drained (by order of Act of Parliament, after 1587) by Cornelius Vanderdelf. A spring, issuing from near the south wall of the churchyard was dedicated to St Chad, and filled a nearby well. The origin of the name is therefore confused, being associated with both the earlier use and the later well. Shadwell was formerly called Chadwelle. In the 17th century, Thomas Neale became a local landowner, and built a mill and established a waterworks on large ponds, left by the draining of the marsh. The area had been virtually uninhabited and he developed the waterfront, with houses behind as a speculation. Shadwell became a maritime hamlet with roperies, tanneries, breweries, wharves, smiths, and numerous taverns, built around the chapel of St Paul's. Seventy-five sea captains are buried in its churchyard; Captain James Cook had his son baptised there. By the mid-eighteenth century, Shadwell Spa was established, producing sulphurous waters, in Sun Tavern fields. As well as medicinal purposes, salts were extracted from the waters; and used by local calico printers to fix their dyes.
The modern area is dominated by the enclosed former dock, Shadwell Basin, whose construction destroyed much of the earlier settlement – by this time degenerated into slums. The basin once formed the eastern entrance to the then London Docks, with a channel leading west to St Katharine Docks. It is actually two dock basins - the south basin was constructed in 1828-32 and the north basin in 1854-8. In 1983, a new ticket hall was built on Cable Street, replacing the original building in Watney Street, which was demolished in May 2010. Access to the station platforms was through lifts or stairs. The station was closed between 1995 and 1998 due to repair work on the East London Line's Thames Tunnel. The station closed on 22 December 2007, reopened on 27 April 2010 for a preview service to New Cross and New Cross Gate, and from 23 May 2010, the latter service extended to West Croydon / Crystal Palace operated within the London Overground network. A new gated northern access fronting Cornwall Street has been added, easing interchange with the Shadwell DLR station, whilst the rest of the station was also heavily refurbished. The station is in Travelcard Zone 2 and has help points but no toilets.
Connections: DLR (Outside Connection) London Buses routes 100, D3, and 339 serve the station.