He was born in 1837 in Todmorden in Yorkshire , the son of a worsted wool mill overseer. He must have been apprenticed to be an ‘Engineer’ at the time of his marriage to Ellen Fox in April 1862. She was the daughter of a Saw Maker from Sheffield and lived near Pomeroy Street in Hatcham. This road was also the site of Hatcham Iron Works, owned by George England & Co, therefore it is probable that William worked there also.
In 1863 George England built the first locomotives for the Festiniog Railway. At this time there were no railways in that area, therefore the railway would have needed help to introduce and run steam engines. Hollinrake appears first in 1863 in a list of people for whom work clothes are being procured, and also the post of Superintendent is first mentioned in the rules being set up. Therefore it is probable that Hollinrake was sent with the locomotives to make them work, then was poached by the railway to stay on as Locomotive Superintendent.
His first child, James was born in late 1863 in Peckham, but the next two daughters were born in Wales, Sarah in 1865 and Ellen in 1867. He is noted as helping with other new locomotives from George England in 1867 and 1869, the latter being Little Wonder. Robert Fairlie, the inventor of this type, took over George England's works in September 1869. It is possible that, because of Hollinrake's help, Fairlie decided to poach him back (Ellen’s family were still living in Pomeroy Street at this time). However it happened, by November 1870, the Hollinrakes had their last daughter Amelia, living in Hatcham.
By the 1871 census the family is shown as living there with William as an Engine Fitter. Fairlie’s enterprise was short lived, failing in late 1870 with the death of one of his partners (George England junior). Therefore it is not known what happened to William. By the time of his eldest daughter's marriage in 1883, he is already listed as deceased.