In his early career was employed by the Sheffield Waterworks company, and involved in the construction of several dams. He entered private practice in 1839, initially in partnership with Mr Waring (of Waring Brothers). He was contracted on civil engineering works including railways, harbour walls and bridge foundation construction.
In the 1860s he was a consulting engineer on the Dale Dyke Dam which collapsed causing the Great Sheffield Flood.
In 1829 he began his own practice in Sheffield, and became engineer of the Sheffield Waterworks in 1833. As engineer to the Sheffield Waterworks he helped create the Redmires Reservoirs and the Crooke"s Moore reservoirs, during which time the young John Fowler trained under him.
Between 1847 and 1850 he carried out the Erewash Valley Lincolnshire. In the mid 1850s he was contracted to carry out improvements to the River Nene, which were also abandoned.
In 1849 he was awarded the contract for the construction of the breakwater at Portland Harbour.
He was also involved in difficult work on the foundations of the Ness Suspension Bridge in the 1850s, and repair work to the Middle Level Navigations in the 1860s under John Hawkshaw. In 1864 the Dale Dyke Dam, the construction of which he had been supervising, collapsed, causing the Great Sheffield Flood which killed over 200 people. Expert opinion at the time differed over the causes of the collapse.
The jury at the inquest into the disaster stated that sufficient care had not been taken in the construction of the works.
In 1864 he established the Hunslet Engine Company, a locomotive manufacture, in Leeds on part of the site of the former Railway Foundry. The company was sold to James Campbell in 1871 for £25,000.
He was employed by the War Office in the 1860s, for the construction of the sea forts at Spithead, as well as Fort Gilkicker and Street Helens Fort. In 1867 he was contracted together with George Smith to construct an extension of the Portsmouth Dockyard, which was completed 1877.
In 1877 he retired from the contracting and civil engineering business.
He was High Sheriff of Northumberland in 1875. Married twice, he died in Leeds on 6 June 1885.