Born in Gateshead and moved to Newcastle when young. He became the manager of a chemical works at Walker and was a Newcastle Councillor from 1866, being Mayor in 1871 and 1879. He was also a JP. He was Chairman of the Redheugh Bridge Company and a member of the Tyne Improvement Commission. He lived in Beaconsfield, Low Fell.
Richard Cail specified his unusual massive four ton grey granite tombstone, reminiscent of a fallen tree trunk, in his will and designed it himself. He was much involved with railway and reservoir engineering.