You never know where you will find these wonderful lovable treasures, although they are a uniquely British phenomenon, people all around the globe collect them. I inherited 35 Toby Jugs from my parents, who were avid collectors for many years. My collection has grown to over 150 now and my problem is that I don’t have the space to display all of them, and it seems a shame to have them stored, but I still have a hard time passing them up when I see them at antique shows and auctions. They all get along with each other and they look so content sitting on my shelves. I talk with them and they are the best listeners. I am so happy that I came to this auction today and spotted one of them.
A Toby Jug is also sometimes known as a Fillpot (or Philpot) and it can be a person that is typically shown seated or an animal. The original Tobies date back to the 1760’s and they are pottery jugs of a seated person, or just the head of a recognizable person (often an English king). The figure is often a heavy-set person, someone that seems jovial and it is common for them to be holding a mug of beer in one hand and a pipe of tobacco in the other while wearing 18th-century attire, including a long coat and a tricorn hat. The tricorn hat forms a pouring spout, often with a removable lid, and a handle is attached at the rear. Jugs are used for pouring, while mugs are used for drinking. To determine if a piece is a jug or a mug, look at the top rim. If the opening has a spout, it’s a jug. If not, it’s a mug. Jugs depicting just the head and shoulders of a figure are also referred to as Toby Jugs, although these should strictly be called “Character Jugs”, or face jugs, the wider historical term.
Some people say that the Toby Jug was named after the character of Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night. Sir Toby Belch is a penniless drunkard who enjoys eating pickled herrings that makes him flatulent. Others say that it comes from the French word “tope” which means to drink alcohol to excess, especially on a regular basis. Most likely, it was named after a notorious 18th century Yorkshire drinker, Henry Elwes, who was known as “Toby Fillpot” (or Philpot) and was inspired by an old English drinking song, ‘The Brown Jug’, which paid tribute to Toby Fillpot, whose ashes were made into Toby’s jug. The popular verses were first published in 1761, and under the name ‘Little Brown Jug’ this was a favorite of Glenn Miller.
Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Sunday Writing Prompt hosted by Yves with today’s prompt being “Choose an Antique”.