Freeman, son of Edmund Freeman, of the Cedars, Combs, Suffolk, by Margaret, daughter of William Hughes of Wexford, Ireland, was born at the Cedars, Combs, Suffolk, 3 February 1818, and educated at Dedham Grammar School under Dr. George Taylor.
At a comparatively early age, October 1835, he became a scholar of Trinity College, Cambridge, and in 1837 and 1838 was awarded Sir William Browne's medals for a Latin ode and epigrams. He was elected Craven University scholar in the latter year, graduated B.A. in 1839, and after being chosen fellow and tutor of St. Peter's College, in 1842 took his M.A. degree.
He served as principal of the Theological College, Chichester, from 1846 to 1848, and was a canon and a reader in theology in Cumbrae College (the college built by the Earl of Glasgow in the island of Cumbrae, Buteshire) from 1853 to 1858, having at the same time charge of the episcopal church in that island. He was presented by the dean and chapter of Exeter to the vicarage of Thorverton, Devonshire, in 1858, was appointed a prebendary of Exeter Cathedral in November 1861, one of the four residentiary canons in 1864, and acted for some time as examining chaplain to the bishop of the diocese. Finally, he was appointed archdeacon of Exeter in April 1865. In connection with the works for the restoration of the cathedral and of his own parish church at Thorverton, in which he took great interest, he expended much time and money. In 1869, at the meeting of the British Association in Exeter, he protested in energetic language against some of the views propounded by Professor Huxley on Darwinism. He was an authority on liturgical and architectural questions, and wrote numerous works on those subjects, and was also a constant contributor to the Ecclesiologist, the Christian Remembrancer, and the Guardian.
In 1866 he engaged in a controversy with Archdeacon Denison as to the "Real Presence". While getting out of a train at Chalk Farm station, London, on 18 February 1875, he met with an accident, from the effects of which he died at the residence of Thomas Gambier, surgeon, 1 Northumberland Terrace, Primrose Hill, London, 24 February. He was buried in Thorverton churchyard on 2 March. His will was proved on 3 April under £25,000.
He married, 18 August 1846, Ann, youngest daughter of the Rev. Henry Hervey Baber. She was born at the British Museum 11 February 1821, and survived him.
- Carmen Latinum Comitiis Maximis recitatum, A.D. 1837. Newtonus, Cambridge, 1838.
- Church Principles as bearing upon certain Statutes of the University of Cambridge, 1841.
- Theses Ecclesiasticæ sive orationes in curia Cantabrigiensi habitæ, 1844.
- Thoughts on the Dissolution of the Camden Society, 1845.
- Proportion in the Gothic Architecture, 1848.
- An Appeal as to the Chichester Diocesan Training College and Bishop Otter's Memorial, 1848.
- "Sunday", a poem, 1851.
- A Plea for the Education of the Clergy, 1851.
- Plain Directions for using Morning and Evening Prayer, 1853.
- A Short Account of the Collegiate Church of Cumbrae, 1854.
- The Principles of Divine Service. An inquiry concerning the manner of understanding the order of Morning and Evening Prayer and the administration of the Holy Communion, 2 parts, 1855–62.
- Four sermons for Advent, 1859.
- Guessing Stories, 1864; 3rd ed. 1876.
- The Harmony of Scripture and Science, 1864.
- The Real Presence; the Worship Due. Correspondence between the Archdeacon of Taunton and the Archdeacon of Exeter, 1866.
- Rites and Ritual, a Plea for Apostolic Doctrine and Worship, 1866; 4th ed., revised, 1866.
- A Tract about Church Rates and Church Endowments, 1866.
- Church Rates, the Patrimony of the Poor; an attempt to set the subject in a new point of view, 1867.
- The History and Characteristics of Exeter Cathedral, with an Appendix on the Screens, 1871.
- The Admonitory Clauses in the Church's Homiletical Creed, 1872.
- The Architectural History of Exeter Cathedral, 1873.
- "A Challenge to the Ritualists." Correspondence between the Archdeacon of Exeter and B. W. Savile on the attempt at Romanising the English Church, 1874.
- "Freeman, Philip". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Freeman, Philip". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.