Born in Washington, County Durham, he was educated at the Royal Grammar School and Lincoln College, Oxford. He wrote Observations on the popular antiquities of Great Britain: Including the Whole of Mr. Bourne's Antiquitates Vulgares (1777), generally referred to as Popular Antiquities. (The incorporated work was the Popular Antiquities of Henry Bourne, published 1725, with Brand's own extensive annotations). Material from it was afterwards broadly incorporated into William Hone's Every Day Book, Year Book, etc, and in Chambers' Book of Days, which had wide popular circulation. The expression "popular antiquities" was overtaken in the 19th century by "folklore". Brand was appointed Secretary to the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1784 and was annually re-elected until his death.