West was born in Farnham in Surrey in 1778, the son of George West, an Anglican clergyman, and Ann (née Knowles). West became a deacon on 13 December 1804 and was ordained a priest on 21 September 1806. On 2 October 1807 he married Harriet Atkinson (1789-1839) in Wethersfield in Essex, and they had 12 children. He graduated from St Edmund Hall, Oxford with an MA on 8 June 1809. After his ordination West was appointed to various appointments in Essex where a mentor was the Rev. Henry Budd and in 1818 at the Church of St Michael the Archangel in Aldershot in Hampshire but West did not receive his first permanent office until early 1820 when he was appointed Rector at Chettle in Dorset. However, he did not take up this appointment as he had already applied to the Church Missionary Society (CMS) to become a missionary, and West became the first chaplain to the Hudson's Bay Company in 1819 and was awaiting his first mission.