William Norwood Cheesman, naturalist of Selby, Yorkshire, England, joined a drapery business in Selby in 1870 and later became its manager. He began to take an interest in nature study even before 1870 and by 1875 was the secretary of the Selby Naturalists' Society. His main interest was in fungi. Though not a systematist, he was an energetic collector and populariser of the subject. In 1896 he became a foundation member of the British Mycological Society and was elected its president in 1925, the year of his death. He was also elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London (FLS).
Cheesman became a member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1900 and in 1905 visited South Africa to attend the joint meeting of the association with its South African counterpart. After the meeting he collected some fungi, most of them near the Victoria Falls. His specimens were identified by the British mycologist George E. Massee. A few years later he published 'A contribution to the mycology of South Africa, with a note on the coprophilous fungi by Thomas Gibbs' in the Journal of the Linnean Society of London, Botany (1909). He also visited Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Some of his publications dealt with the mycology and Mycetozoa (or Myxomycetes, slime moulds) of the Rocky Mountains (1907), Australia and New Zealand (1915) and Keswick, England (1923). He played an active role in the affairs of his home town and was a prominent Freemason.