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Phillips was born in Kibworth, Leicestershire. In 1891 he became curate of Holy Trinity, Taunton, Somerset; in 1895 he became curate of Hendford, Yeovil; in 1901 he became curate of St. Saviour's, Croydon; in 1906 he became curate of Ashtead, Surrey; finally in 1916 he was appointed vicar of Headley where he remained for the rest of his life.
As an amateur astronomer, he observed planets including Jupiter and Mars, making a very thorough study of the surface currents on Jupiter. He was a member of the IAU commission on planets. He was director of the Jupiter section of the British Astronomical Association from 1900–1933 and director of the Saturn section from 1935–1940. He was president of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1927–1929.
He won the Jackson-Gwilt Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1918.
He co-wrote Splendour of the Heavens with W. H. Steavenson in 1923.
In an addition to astronomy, he took an active interest in meteorology. He was married and had one son.