Joseph Hall Morton was born on 15 August 1849 in North Shields and was a pupil of Matthew Thomson of Newcastle from 1864, remaining as his assistant until 1871 when he commenced practice on his own account in South Shields. He was elected FRIBA in 1882, his proposers being Thomas Oliver, F.R.N Haswell and W.L. Newcombe. He took his son Ralph Henry Morton (born 1873) into partnership in 1900. The elder Morton died in 1923 and Ralph Henry Morton continued on his own until 1949 when Morton Angus Mackenzie succeeded to the practice.
Morton senior was a specialist in workhouses and was responsible for all or parts of the workhouses at Bradford (1896-1901), Doncaster (1896-99) and Stamford (1899-1902) as well as those in Nottingham, York, Hartlepool, Burton-on-Trent and Hexham.