He was born on 10 April 1852 at Talk-o'-the-Hill, north Staffs. and went down the pit at the age of 9. His limited education was at a PM day school and he was a Sunday School teacher. Joining the North Staffordshire Miner's Association in 1870, he quickly became its local treasurer and in 1875 was made a checkweighman. From 1877 until 1912 he was general secretary of the Association and was instrumental in forming the Midland Miners' Federation in 1886, serving as its president until 1912. He also played a leading part in the Miners' Federation of Great Britain, formed in 1889, was its treasurer until 1904 and president from then on.
He was a PM local preacher, served as a JP and held various local government offices, including mayor of Burslem in 1899. From 1906 until 1910 he was Liberal MP for Hanley. Re-elected as Lib-Lab in 1910 he died at Southport on 28 June 1912.