Arkell was born in Boddington, Gloucestershire and educated at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he was a rower. He rowed for Oxford in the Boat Race in 1857, 1858 and 1859. Oxford won in 1857 but lost in 1858. Arkell succeeded Edmond Warre as O.U.B.C. President, and implemented his idea of Trial Eights at Oxford in the autumn of 1858. Oxford won the 1859 Boat Race when Arkell was stroke.
Arkell married Sarah Elizabeth Harwood at Marylebone in 1860 and they had 4 boys (Thomas, Charles, John and Henry) and 2 girls (Gertrude and Seringa).
Arkell died in Hungerford at the age of 87.
- British Census 1881 RG11 1503/10 p13
- Douglas Macleane A History of Pembroke College
- W E Sherwood Oxford Rowing 2009
- Henley Royal Regatta Results of Final Races 1839-1939 Archived 2012-03-09 at the Wayback Machine.