Noakes was born September 1924 in Bwlch - llan in Cardiganshire. He grew up in a bilingual family, which was unusual at that time. His father came from South Pembrokeshire and spoke English, while his mother was deeply rooted in the Welsh-speaking community. This bilingualism should still be him in his later life of great benefit.
After completing his education, when the Second World War drew to a close, Noakes joined the Royal Air Force and was, after his training in Canada, during the last months of World War II part of the flying personnel of the Royal Air Force. After the end of hostilities Noakes left the Royal Air Force and went to the University College Wales, Aberystwyth, where he studied philosophy. After his graduation he prepared in Wycliffe Hall, Oxford before his ordination. Noakes was for six years, from 1950 to 1956, curate in Lampeter, was then 1956-1959 vicar in Eglwyswrw in Pembrokeshire, and returned in the connection back to Cardiganshire, where he was from 1959 to 1967 Vicar of Tregaron.
In 1967 Noakes was Vikar of Eglwys Dewi Sant, a Welsh church in Cardiff. He also served as chaplain, the Welsh-speaking prisoners of Cardiff Prison. After 9 years as vicar of Eglwys Dewi Sant, he returned in 1976 in the diocese of St David's, where he had grown up, back and was from 1976 to 1979 Rector of Aberystwyth, 1977-1979 canon of St David's Cathedral, and finally from 1979 to 1982 Archdeacon of Cardigan. In addition, he served from 1980 to 1982 as vicar of Llanychaearn.
In 1981 he was elected Bishop of St Davids and received his episcopal consecration in 1982. In 1987, then took his election as Archbishop of Wales. Because of the high burden of both his bishop and offices of a heart attack Noakes 1991 resigned as archbishop. Bishop of St. David's he remained until 1995.
Noakes Gorsedd of Bards was a member of 1989 and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Wales. Noakes was married since 1957.