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Toby jug
  • Toby jug
    Wood, Ralph the younger, born 1748 - died 1795
  • Enlarge image

Toby jug

  • Place of origin:

    Burslem (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1785 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Wood, Ralph the younger, born 1748 - died 1795 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Lead-glazed earthenware

  • Credit Line:

    Bought from the Haliburton Collection

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Ceramics, Room 138, The Harry and Carol Djanogly Gallery, case 14, shelf 7

The ‘Toby jug’ – a beer jug shaped as a seated drinker with three-cornered hat, frock coat, clay pipe and mug overflowing with frothing beer – is one of England’s most distinctive ceramic designs. The subject was inspired by an engraving accompanying a song featuring Toby Fillpot published in 1761. Toby Fillpot (ie ‘fill pot’) is described as ‘a thirsty old soul’ and is apparently based on a man said to have drunk 2,000 gallons of ale. Although Toby Jugs are modelled as unsophisticated rustic drinkers, some at least were sold through smart London china shops, indicating that they also appealed to a sophisticated metropolitan market.They are first documented in pottery in 1783, when they were being sold by the Wood family of Staffordshire potters, and were still popular in the 1820s, by which date several variant designs had been introduced. This one was decorated with pigments before it was glazed and is an early example. Later ones are often painted with a distinctive range of high-temperature colours, and late pieces are usually painted in enamels.

Creamware, of which this piece is made, is a type of cream-coloured, lead-glazed earthenware. It was made from white-firing clay and calcined flint, and was developed in Staffordshire during the mid-eighteenth century. Famously, the great industrialist and potter Josiah Wedgwood supplied his perfected creamware to Queen Charlotte and then marketed his products as ‘Queen’s Ware.’ Creamware was a tough, inexpensive and hygienic material, which could be decorated with coloured glazes, transfer-printing, enamel painting with or without gilding, or left plain. It was hugely popular with both middle-classes and the wealthy for tea-wares, dinner services and a great variety of functional objects. Going out of fashion around 1820 in England, it remained popular for much longer in continental Europe.

Physical description

Toby jug and cover, lead-glazed earthenware

Place of Origin

Burslem (made)


ca. 1785 (made)


Wood, Ralph the younger, born 1748 - died 1795 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Lead-glazed earthenware


Height: 25.7 cm Conversion from imperial

Descriptive line

Toby jug, lead-glazed earthenware, probably made at the factory of Ralph Wood, Burslem, ca. 1785

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Passion for Porcelain: masterpieces of ceramics from the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Labels and date

Toby jug
Probably factory of Ralph Wood, Burslem, Staffordshire, about 1789-1801
Lead-glazed earthenware

93-1874 [23/05/2008]

Production Note

Probably made at the factory of Ralph Wood.


Earthenware; Lead glaze




Ceramics Collection

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