Born at Clowne, Derbyshire, at 15 he was apprenticed to a local carpenter but later established his own business in Bolton. When about thirty-two he began reading works by socialists and lost his faith. He ceased working in the building trade in 1848, moving to Sheffield. In his leisure hours he had studied botany and now went into business as a medical botanist, writing The Working Man's Family Botanic Guide to Health, which by 1904 had gone into seventeen editions. An American university awarded him an MD. Meanwhile in Sheffield there was a smallpox outbreak and immunisation was made compulsory. However, as he believed this actually generated the disease he refused to have his children immunised and was fined a number of times.
As an infidel he associated with the 'Rockingham Street Fraternity' at the Hall of Science. With a commitment both to the downtrodden and to the temperance cause, he saw the Bible as being in opposition to his views. Then in 1857 he was persuaded to hear the Rev. James Caughey at Mount Tabor chapel, Sheffield. This led ultimately to his conversion and becoming a PM Local Preacher, often officiating at the Union Workhouse. He died on 5 April 1877 and was interred in Sheffield General Cemetery.