The artist, born in Marshfield near Bath, was initially apprenticed as a printer, although throughout this period of study he exhibited watercolours at the Free Society of Artists and the Society of Artists. In 1771 he took the opportunity to travel to the Leeward Islands with Sir Ralph Payne, who had been posted there as governor, and Hearne remained in the Islands until 1775. On his return, he became a devoted recorder of British topography, particularly remaining examples of medieval architecture. 84 of his drawings were published in William Byrne's The Antiquities of Great Britain, London, 1778-81.
Another pen and wash drawing of Ely Cathedral, by the artist, is in the collection of Sir John Soane's Museum, London.