From ordinary beginnings in Bury, Greater ManchesterBury, Lancashire, he entered the Wesleyan Methodist Association ministry at the age of 20, serving mainly in circuits in the north of England. His assiduous reading meant that his preaching was more scholarly than populist. As part of the United Methodist Free Churches from 1857, he became prominent in its committees, serving on the Connexional Committee for 35 years, and in the annual Assembly, twice being elected President (1867, 1881). Although generally conservative he was also adaptable to new situations and challenges. He came to know Everett, JamesJames Everett and Griffith, WilliamWilliam Griffith, and wrote their biographies (1875, 1885). He was nominated Principal of Victoria Park College, ManchesterVictoria Park College in 1894, but was never able to take up the post.