Arnold was a shipwright in the dockyard in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. He lived in Nile Street, Landport, and was choirmaster at the Daniel Street Wesleyan Chapel. He composed many of his tunes while at work, and was accustomed to write them down with his carpenter’s pencil on a piece of board. His tune Sarah was the first to be recorded this way, and the board containing it was long preserved by a friend of Arnold’s, a Mr. Johnson.
Arnold’s music was first published in 1800, or shortly thereafter, in Original Psalm and Hymn Tunes.