He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated Bachelor of Arts in Classics 1847, and proceeded Master of Arts
In 1850. and was awarded the Chancellor"s Gold Medal for poetry in 1844, 1845 and 1846. On taking Holy Orders in 1848, he became curate of Banningham, Norfolk, and then of Christ Church, Tunbridge Wells. He was called to the Rectory of Hinton Martell in 1852 and to the Vicarage of Christ Church, Hampstead in 1855, a position in which he remained for 30 years.
In 1885 he became Dean of Gloucester and in the same year was appointed Bishop of Exeter.
Bickersteth was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity by Cambridge University in 1885. Following in the footsteps of his father, Bickersteth undertook a number of extended overseas mission tours in support of the work of the Church Mission Society and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.
In 1880 he travelled to India and the Middle East. Beginning with a volume of poems in 1849, he published extensively.