Born near Bury, Lancs., he was brought up an Anglican, but then joined the Methodists. He invested in looms and became a weaver, then ran a school for a time before becoming a partner in an iron foundry. He then returned to the wool trade, found it unprofitable and crossed the Atlantic in search of new opportunities. Returning home and to teaching, he became a founder member of the WMA in Bury.
An unmarried son, also Joseph Hacking, inventor of a plating machine for folding and measuring cloth, was connected wirth Brunswich UMFC, Bury. Another son, Thomas Hacking (1814-1893; e.m. 1841) was born on 29 January 1814. He was President of the UMFC in 1860 and from 1872 to 1881 was the first tutor at the UMFC Theological Institute (Victoria Park) in Manchester. He died on 2 May 1893.