Born at Tysoe, Warwicks. On 13 June 1859 to an unmarried servant who refused support from the father or her more prosperous relatives, he left school at 11 to work on a farm, then in quarrying and building and, in the 1870s, with the Ordnance Survey. Through contact with Joseph Archhe came under the influence of trade unionism and Liberalism and began writing on the conditions of rural life. He was active in the formation of the Tysoe Allotments Association and eventually acquired a small farm of his own. With the extension of the franchise to agricultural labourers in 1870, he gave himself more fully to political activities in support of the Liberals and became a travelling lecturer for the English Land Restoration League. In the new century he served on the parish and district councils and became a JP. In 1914 he moved to a farm at Ascott under Wychwood, but was faced the difficult conditions of the war years. He was a committed Methodist and a Wesleyan local preacher, and was married in Tysoe WM chapel in 1885. He died on 4 March 1919. His biography was written by his daughter, Mabel K. Ashby, principal of Hillcroft College for Working Women, Surbiton.