Popple was born in Provident Place (now Waterside) in Berkhamsted to John and Elizabeth, who were originally from Lincolnshire. He was educated at Victoria School and Berkhamsted School, before returning to Victoria School to teach. He stayed at the school for 48 years, later becoming Head Master there.
Popple was also a talented artist, musician, conductor, naturalist, and horticulturalist. Additionally, he had a keen interest in the history of the Berkhamsted and was a founder member and Chairman of the Berkhamsted Local History Society.