Born in Norfolk, the artist was educated at Plymouth Grammar School where he received informal drawing lessons from the school's headmaster, Dr John Bidlake. He moved to London in 1802 to join John Britton (the antiquary), also making a tour of Devon and Cornwall making drawings which were to prove unsatisfactory for Britton's purposes.
His visits to Cornwall were recorded in 1802, 1806, and in the 1830s through the paintings and drawings that he produced. Until 1818 his primary exhibition subjects were of West Country architecture, coastal scenes and shipping. His great interest was architecture and detail of both man-made and natural lines of the environment. From 1819 his work reflected new interests after his first visit to the Continent, in the picturesque streets, market places and people of old French towns.
Later he also painted in Belgium, Germany and Italy. He was much praised by John Ruskin with the statement 'There is no stone drawing, no vitality of architecture like Prout's'. He died in London following a birthday party given for that critic and art historian.