Early itinerant. A native of Carlisle, where his father ran a woollen factory, he moved with his parents to Barnard Castle and joined the local Methodist society. He had some experience of the hardships of the itinerancy in the Staffordshire Circuit before being made a travelling preacher at the 1755 Conference and dedicating himself to forty-three years of tireless and fruitful ministry. Appointed to Dundee in 1763 he witnessed the bitter anti-Wesleyan controversy sparked off in Scotland by the publication of James Hervey's Letters. He was ordained by Wesley for Scotland in 1785 and on his return to English circuits in 1787, persisted in the practice of baptizing children and administering the Lord's Supper in spite of John Wesley's disapproval. Although Wesley feared that he would leave Methodism for an independent ministry, Hanby outlived him, was elected President of the Conference in 1794 and lived to be the oldest minister in the Connexion, dying on 29 December 1796 after 'travelling' for 44 years.
'Gentle in his mannrs.- mild in his temper,- unexceptionable in his character… Rather slow of speech, and generally leaning to the moderate and the mild.'
Wesleyan Takings (1840), p.338