Hulton was born in 1787, the son of the High Sheriff of Lancashire, at the family seat, Hulton Park. Educated at Cambridge, he married his cousin, Maria Ford, and they had 13 children, 10 of whom survived to adulthood. His father had died when he was 12, and at 21 he inherited the family estates, which included substantial coal-mining interests at Westhoughton.
When he was 24, Hulton followed his father as High Sheriff, and it was just a year later that he was called into action, arresting 12 people when Luddites torched a Westhoughton weaving mill. Four of them - including a 12 year old boy - were hanged. He had another man at a Westhoughton mill transported for seven years for "administering oaths".
As troubled times loomed again in 1819, Hulton was called on to chair Lancashire and Cheshire magistrates, a committee set up purposely to deal with the unrest which was sweeping the manufacturing districts. He took up his post in July, a month before Peterloo. It was he
Hulton, however, refused to accept that he had done anything wrong. He insisted that only two people had been killed at Peterloo, one of them a a special constable, and he described August 16th as "the proudest day in my life." Home Secretary Viscount Sidmouth appeared to agree, sending him a message of congratulations.
But Hulton never lived down the massacre in the eyes of radicals and working men. Frightened of the abuse he might receive while campaigning, he turned down a safe Tory seat in the Commons in 1820, and even as late as 1841, he was attacked while campaigning for the Tory candidate in Bolton and had to be rescued by party workers.His assailants had chanted "Peterloo" in case he was in any doubt about the reason for the assault.
As a mine owner, Hulton played a big part in the development of the Bolton-Leigh Railway in 1825, dealing personally with the engineer George Stephenson. He died in 1864.