Kingston Pottery - Character and Toby Jugs

Kingston Pottery made three different series of Character and Toby jugs produced between 1978 and 1982. A hand spraying process was used to apply the paint, making it possible to produce them quickly and cheaply.

English Royalty

The first series was the English Royalty series, introduced in 1978 was a limited edition set of 12 large Character Jugs. Careful research was involved in selecting the most notorious monarchs for the series and each jug also came with a detailed biography of the monarch depicted. The first jug in the series was King John. After completing three of these jugs, the modeller, Frank Garbutt of Stoke, wanted to retire. John Love persuaded him to stay and create nine more jugs.

The royalty jugs were very popular, with Henry VIII being the biggest seller, and Kingston Pottery wanted to expand the series further. However, Frank Garbutt died shortly after designing the twelfth character. Other modellers were asked to design jugs, but no one could capture the same look as Frank's designs.

The Elizabeth I jug was the only one of the English Royalty series produced without a spout. This caused problems when it was exported to New Zealand because it was classified as a decorative item and carried a 100% import tariff. The firm modified those Elizabeth I jugs destined for New Zealand by hand forming a spout with the thumb before firing. This allowed them to be classified as a water pitcher and avoided the import tariff.

Charles Dickens

Kingston Pottery's second series of character jugs introduced in 1979 featured 16 well known characters from Charles Dickens' works. The models which included the Artful Dodger, Scrooge and Oliver Twist were designed by local sculptor and designer Peter Dunn with an estimated 500 of each jug being produced.

Toby Jugs

Kingston Pottery returned to Peter Dunn for their third series – that of Irish Water Jugs, commonly known as Toby Jugs. These jugs feature colourful characters familiar to people, and were sold in large quantities to New York pubs and taverns. Characters included Phil the Fluter, Molly Malone, Danny Boy and Mother Macree.

There are many theories on the origins of the name Toby Jug - some believe it is named after Shakespeare's Sir Toby Belch in 'Twelfth Night'. The most popular theory is that it is named after a very large Yorkshireman Henry Elwes who was nicknamed 'Toby Fillpot' who died from over drinking in 1761. A stoneware jug model quickly became popular and the style was followed by other Staffordshire potteries.