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Thomas Worsey was born into the Worsey Canal dynasty. In 1811, his aunt Jane married Edward Fellows whose son and grandson founded the Fellows, Morton and Clayton canal carrying and boat building company. His cousin, Joseph William Worsey, set up Worsey Ltd boat builders.
According to the 1851 census, Thomas was an ornamental japanner living at home with his parents in Park Road, Nechells, Birmingham. His father was a beer retailer at The Vine Licensed House. In 1861 Thomas was living with his widowed mother in Adderley Street, Saltley. His brother was a coach builder before becoming the licensee of The Albion Inn in Aston, close to the Worsey Dock in Plume Street.
Thomas never married. He died on 26th April 1875, and on 7th May a letter appeared in the Birmingham Daily Post from Alfred Johnson of 37 Main Place, Kyrwicks Lane, Highgate, Birmingham in reply to an article announcing his death in which Thomas had been referred to as an artist residing in Upper Saltley, Birmingham:
'Mr Worsey was originally placed by his uncle, then a manufacturer in the papier mache wares, near Prospect Row, in this town, but finding the ability for something higher, he, at the age of 15 apprenticed to me, and remained in my service as an ornamentor of papier mache goods 'til he was over twenty years of age, when circumstances induced me to give up the business, and knowing of late Mr. Richard Turley, of Hospital Street to be a manufacturer of first class articles and a man of excellent taste, I recommended my friend to apply to him, and on showing Mr. Turley his specimins of flower painting - a branch I specially taught him - he was so satisfied that he promised him as much work as he liked to do, and I believe did so for many years, whereupon Mr. Worsey went to Scotland, where he remained sometime, still painting in the trade, and it was not until his return he finally settled down as an artist.'
It is widely believed that the roses that form part of the traditional decoration on canal boats were inspired by japanware. One could also speculate that, because of his very close connection to the canals, it was he in particular who influenced such decoration.
Information courtesy of Susan Powis