I was born on the 15th of January, 1770, at the village of Oxton, near Tadcaster, in Yorkshire. My father was descended from a respectable race of yeomen, his grandfather having purchased a small estate in the township of Oxton, in the time of Charles II, as appears by the title deeds. His father, in addition to his paternal property, rented a large farm at Wighill Grange, the property of the Stapletons of Wighill Park. My mother was the eldest daughter of William Hill, Esquire, of Oxton, who inherited a considerable estate, which had lineally descended to him from the time of Queen Elizabeth, his ancestor being a younger brother of the Hills of Marston.
My father was a man of quick parts and ingenuous dispositions, but having a disinclination to the learned languages as a boy, and a strong preference for figures, he studied geometry and mensuration under the Rev. Mr. Atkinson, of Thorparch, and was, at fifteen, apprenticed to Mr. Lund, a land-surveyor and land-valuer, at Dring Houses, near York. He was the eldest of four children, and his father dying when he was about twenty, he succeeded to the small estate at Oxton, which, with industrious attention to his business, enabled him to marry Miss Hill in 1768, when he established himself at Oxton.