Antiques Column: Grim face of Toby cheered up a little

Once upon a time many years ago, when ‘horse power’ referred to how many horses pulled your coach and the tricorn hat rather than the baseball cap was the ‘go to’ choice for headgear, there lived a man called Henry Elwes.

Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 12:00 am

Now Henry, even amongst his closest friends, had a reputation for being miserable. He was the king of miserable a short, fat man with dirty lanky hair and he held a record for drinking two thousand pints of Stingo.

Stingo was very strong ale, but unfortunately there are no records to say how long it took Henry to drink all those pints.

It matters not, however, how long it took, the mere fact it was drunk gave Henry Elwes the nickname Toby Fillpot.

Toby Jug.

There are many claims to the origin of the Toby jug, but one of the most convincing is that it is based on poor old Toby Fillpot.

This is further backed by the work of a publisher Carington Bowles, who in 1761 published illustrations of a short, fat miserable man with lanky hair poking from a tricorn hat and titled him Toby Fillpot. A few years later Toby Jugs began to emerge from pottery factories.

Shakespeare’s Sir Toby Belch from “Twelfth Night”, who in the play is portrayed as an excessive drinker, is thought by some to be the source of the famous jug, but he just doesn’t have the portly misery of Mr Fillpot.

As time passed and more jugs were made, the grim face of Toby cheered up a little, particularly in examples like “The Sailor” and “Hearty Good Fellow”.

The name, though, stuck, even when famous faces such as Winston Churchill appeared on these jugs, they remained Toby Jugs.