Little is known of Huggins' early life but he was recorded as being a sailor in the service of the East India Company. During his voyages he made many drawings of ships and landscapes in China and elsewhere. He eventually settled in Leadenhall Street, near East India House in London, England, and practised his art as a profession, being specially employed to make drawings of ships in the company's service. His work, both original and as prints, found a ready market amongst merchants and seamen.
In 1817 Huggins exhibited a picture in the Royal Academy, and continued to exhibit occasionally up to his death. He also exhibited at the British Institution from 1825 onwards. He became a marine-painter to George IV and to William IV – for the latter painting three large pictures of the Battle of Trafalgar.
Huggins died in Leadenhall Street, London, in May 1845.