Wainman Topham was born in Leeds, and became an engraver like his father. By 1870 he had moved to Sheffield and was studying at Sheffield School of Art. He taught drawing at Sheffield Mechanics' Institute at a weekly evening class, and exhibited with the Sheffield Society of Artists.
By 1881, he was no longer working solely as an engraver, but is described in the census as an "artist in watercolours". Ten years later he was living in Canada, while his wife and children stayed behind in Sheffield. Research is ongoing into his life there.