Phoebe Rayner was born in Preston, Lancashire, the eldest daughter of Dr. Arthur Rayner, a pioneer in radiology, and his wife Gertrude, a violinist in the Hallé Orchestra. She wrote poetry as a schoolgirl. She attended Cheltenham Ladies College but left at age 17 to nurse her terminally ill mother. In 1931, at age 22, she married Aubrey Hesketh, a mill director, with whom she had three children. They moved to Rivington, Lancashire, where she lived the rest of her married life. Phoebe Hesketh's first collection, Poems, was published in 1939. During World War II, she worked as the editor of the "women's page" for the Bolton Evening News. In 1948, she published her second volume of poems, Lean Forward, Spring, which won widespread critical acclaim. She went on to write a total of 16 books of poetry and was championed by well-known literary figures and fellow poets, including Siegfried Sassoon. After the war, she worked as a freelance lecturer, poetry teacher, and journalist, and wrote scripts for the BBC. Her collected poems were published in Netting the Sun: New and Collected Poems (1989). She also wrote poetry for young readers, collected in A Song of Sunlight (1974) and Six of the Best (1989). She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1956, and a Fellow of the University of Central Lancashire in 1990. She also wrote My Aunt Edith, a biography of Edith Rigby, the famous suffragist, which was published in 1966, and two books about the village of Rivington.