He was born on 13 January 1840 at Whitburn and trained as a teacher, but abandoned education in 1864 in favour of business in Sunderland. Publishing and politics soon became his dominant concerns, under the influence of Mazzini's Duties of Man.He was one of the group of radical businessmen who launched the Sunderland Echo in 1873. He later worked with Andrew Carnegie on creating a national newspaper syndicate. An advanced Liberal, he was a town councillor from 1869 and mayor in 1876 (when he is said to have been the first mayor to insist on the civic parade to be held a nonconformist chapel). He was MP for Sunderland 1881-1895 and served on the Durham County Council 1892-1913 (and chairman from 1896 to 1905). Brought up in Free Methodism, he attended Dock Street UMFC/UM chapel, Sunderland and was an active supporter of the Brotherhood Movement. He died at Chester-le-Street on 18 January 1925.