Jones was born in the town of Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, the son of Ida Elizabeth (née Goodwin) and Charles Edward Jones. He became an actor after ten years of working as a laboratory assistant with the British Ceramic Research Association in Penkhull, leaving (according to him) because of a 'ban on beards '. He was then able to pursue his hobby of acting on a full-time basis. He was trained at the prestigious Rose Bruford College and became famous for his award-winning role as Claudius in the 1968 British television series The Caesars.
He narrated the award-winning video Sexual Encounters of the Floral Kind: Pollination. He plays the character Sandy Thomas in ITV's Emmerdale. He appeared in David Lynch's films The Elephant Man (1980), Dune (1984), Wild at Heart (1990) as well as the short-lived TV series On The Air (1992) and the short film Hotel Room (1993). Jones created the part of Sir in the original production of The Dresser by Ronald Harwood.
Actor Toby Jones is the eldest of Freddie Jones's three sons.