The station opened in 1860 as Kentish Town on the Hampstead Junction Railway from Camden Road to Old Oak Common Junction south of Willesden Junction. It was renamed Gospel Oak in 1867 when a new station more appropriately named Kentish Town was opened about a kilometre south on the same line (that station is now Kentish Town West). Due to financial constraints a planned connection from the Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway to Gospel Oak station was not added until 4 June 1888, some 20 years after that railway opened, and then without a link to the North London Line due to other companies' opposition. From 1926 to 1981, the station was not a passenger interchange: passenger trains left the Barking line at Tufnell Park and descended the gradient to Kentish Town station. In 1981 that passenger service from Barking was diverted from Kentish Town to Gospel Oak with the terminal platform rebuilt on the north side of the existing station. The North London Line through Gospel Oak was electrified on the fourth-rail 660 volt DC system in 1916 by the LNWR: in the 1970s that was changed to 750 volt DC third rail. In 1996, the line from Willesden through Gospel Oak to Camden was closed during conversion to 25kv AC overhead.
The name Gospel Oak derives from a local oak tree, under which parishioners gathered to hear regular gospel readings when the area was still rural. The oak of Gospel Oak marked the boundary between the parishes of Hampstead and St Pancras, and was said to be situated on the corner of Mansfield Road and Southampton Road. The oak vanished sometime in the 1800s and was last recorded on a map of the area in 1801. There are reports that the founder of Methodism John Wesley preached from the oak, with the 18th century farming population meeting there regularly. The small street named Wesleyan Place, off Highgate Road, was the original site of a very early Methodist chapel that was connected with the famous oak. The platforms are high above street level with stairs and two lifts, one serving westbound trains, and one serving eastbound trains and the Barking line. The North London Line has two platforms and the Barking line has a short terminal platform north of which are two separate through freight tracks which join the NLL just west of the station. The typical off-peak service at the station in trains per hour is: 4 eastbound to Barking, 6 eastbound to Stratford, 2 westbound to Clapham Junction, 4 westbound to Richmond Oyster ticket barriers are in operation. NOTE. Platforms 1 & 2 serve the North London Line. Barking trains terninate at Platform 3. Passengers using Oyster cards are required to tap on interchange Oyster card readers when changing between the two lines. The station is in Travelcard Zone 2 and has wi-fi, lifts, boarding ramps, help points and a waiting room, but no toilets.
Connections: London Buses route C11 serves the station.