Born at Flitcham, Norfolk, he worked on the land from an early age, but at 17 joined the militia. Having taught himself to read, he became an avid reader and was a local preacher for 58 years. In 1872 he became involved in organising an agricultural union in his locality, joining forces with Joseph Arch the following year. He became prominent as a public speaker, sharing a platform with Gladstone, John Bright and other leading reformers. He died at Scunthorpe on 15 October 1914.