The station was opened by the Eastern Counties Railway on 22 August 1856 and was called "Low Leyton". It was renamed Leyton on 27 November 1868 by the Great Eastern Railway. The current station buildings largely date from the reconstruction of 1879, which saw the original level crossing replaced by a bridge, although some alterations were carried out in connection with the transfer of the station from the London & North Eastern Railway to London Underground as part of the eastern extensions of the Central line. The station was first served by the Central line on 5 May 1947. Now demolished is the northern ticket office and entrance, opened in 1901, which was removed as part of the controversial M11 extension that was built adjacent to the station in the 1990s.
In September 2011, it was announced that the tube station's capacity was to be doubled, in order to cope with the predicted additional users of the station during the 2012 Olympic Games, and to ease the existing congestion. There was planned to be a new exit from the westbound platform onto Goodall Road, and two extra exits from the eastbound platform, to be used when needed. The work was due to be completed by June 2012, but did not materialise.