He was born to staunch Methodist parents on 17 February 1825 in Birmingham. He showed early signs of both piety and intellectual gifts, but at 14 was apprenticed to a gun engraver. Accepted for the ministry in 1844, he trained at Richmond College. After some years in circuit work, in 1873 he was appointed as Theological Tutor at Headingley College and also Chairman of the Leeds District. He wrote a biography of his cousin Thomas Collins (1868). Though he was nominated to the Presidency of the Conference, ill health intervened. A slight stroke in November 1879 led to his retiring in 1880 to Warwick, where he died on 30 October. One of his two sons, S. Burt Coley (1852-1924; e.m. 1874) followed him into the ministry. The other was a doctor in Newcastle upon Tyne.
S. Ernest Coley (1882-1957; e.m. 1907) was the grandson and son of the above, and also great-grandson of Joseph Walker (e.m. 1811; died 1857.)