In 1761, the year Elwes died, the Rev. Francis Fawkes wrote a poem about his life and death. Part of the poem read: “His body, when long in the ground had lain, and time into clay had resolved it again, a potter found it in its convert so snug — and with part of fat Toby, he formed this brown jug.”
In 1765, the poem inspired the famous Burslem potter Ralph Wood and Son to create the first clay toby jugs, finished in a brown salt glaze. The novelty soon prompted other Staffordshire potters to produce their own version of the toby jug. As they gained in popularity, potters throughout England began to produce a wide variety of jugs, some even based on new characters and real people.
In 1786, an artist by the name of Robert Dighton engraved an image of the jovial character and titled it “Toby Fillpot – A Thirsty Old Soul.” The engraving was reproduced and sold by a London print seller named Carrington Bowles and greatly inspired the collecting trend. The heyday of authentic toby-jug production in England was between 1775 and 1825.
Perhaps the most well-known and by far the most plentiful producer of character jugs and mugs is the Royal Doulton company. First located in London, the firm began making tableware and collectibles in 1815. In 1882, John Doulton, the company’s principal founder, purchased a factory in Burslem, Staffordshire, in a region known as “The Potteries.” From that time forward, Royal Doulton became a leader in ceramic noveltyware.
In 1924, Doulton’s artist designer Harry Simeon began making toby jugs based on the traditional style, but with a fresh approach by adding color. The “tobies” became an instant success, and today pieces modeled by Simeon are eagerly sought by collectors the world over. In 1933, Charles Noke, Royal Doulton’s creative director, introduced the first character jugs.