It is believed that the Toby Jug originated in Staffordshire. However it was reproduced by many of the Devon potteries. The origins of Tobies are a bit vague although it is mostly attributed to a thirsty character called Toby Phillpot (name is possibly a pun) a heavy-set, jovial man wearing a long coat and a tricorn hat and holding a mug of beer in his right hand and a pipe of tobacco in the other. These jugs caught the fancy of late 18th century England where they quickly became common pouring vessels at local pubs and taverns. Most Toby jugs usually conform to the description above although later different variations can be found and these come under the term of being character jugs.
There are also some variations to the traditional Toby function as a jug, these are mainly Tobies made as lamp bases, sugar shakers and the cruet sets are often accompanied with a Judy Jug. Devonmoor also made one as a smoker’s friend to hold both tobacco and matches
The most prolific Devon pottery making Toby jugs was the Devonmoor pottery at Ilsington where many different sizes were produced including a giant Toby jug measuring two feet high. A great many were made in different colour combinations with some unusual colour-ways being keenly sort after by collectors. The other South Devon potteries making them included Bovey Art Pottery, Watcombe, Royal Torquay, Dartmouth, Devonia and Devon Tors. The various North Devon potteries have over the years also made some interesting Tobies but these are outside of our remit, as are the many character jugs that are different in style to the accepted Toby jug form.
We are very indebted to Linda & Ryan Wade for photographs of their unusual Toby jugs shown here.