John Carr was born in April 1723, the eldest of nine children of Robert Carr and Rose Lascelles. He was educated in Wakefield and followed his father into masonry and architecture.
Carr married Sarah Hinchcliffe (1712-1787) in August 1746 and soon after became known professionally for his work at Kirby Hall. In 1755 he worked on the new grandstand at York Racecourse and he had strong connections with the Whig party, serving himself as a city magistrate and twice the Lord Mayor.
Carr worked on many buildings in York, most of which are still standing, including York County Lunatic Hospital, Bishopthorpe Palace, Fairfax House, Castlegate House and the County Court House. He also worked on Newark Town Hall, Wakefield Prison and Somerset House amongst many other projects. He was also known for designing numerous bridges, including Ferrybridge Bridge, and for a time was the bridgemaster for the north and west Ridings of Yorkshire.
Carr died in February 1807 at Askham Hall and was buried at St. Peter and St. Leonard’s Church in Horbury, which he not only helped to design, but had also entirely funded.