The son of a wheelwright, Ferneley worked for a while in the same trade, but became known for his painted decorations of the wagons that had come into the forge for repair. With financial support from the Duke of Rutland, Ferneley was able to turn to painting full-time, training with sporting artist Ben Marshall. Thomas Assheton Smith was an early important patron of Ferneley’s work, but after the artist set up a permanent studio (c.1814) in Melton Mowbray, in the centre of hunting country, his patron list grew to include many prestigious hunting enthusiasts, including his early supporter the Duke of Rutland. Ferneley became a major producer of sporting paintings, and a number were translated into prints, appearing in The Sporting Magazine and elsewhere. Of Ferneley’s eight children, three carried on the father’s profession, including his daughter Sarah (1811-1903).