Construction of the station had started in the 1930s, but was delayed by the onset of World War 2. The incomplete tunnels between Wanstead and Gants Hill to the east were used for munitions production by Plessey during the World War 2. Plessey opened their facility in 1942, and production lasted until 1945. Wanstead was not opened until 14 December 1947. The station buildings, located opposite The Green, were designed by architect Charles Holden, like many other stations on the branch. It kept its original wooden escalator until 2003, one of the last underground tube stations to do so.
The station has been extensively refurbished since 2006, with the original platform wall tiling, that had become badly damaged, being replaced.