What number links the following: members of a football team, pipers piping or players on each side in cricket? The answer is eleven. And while none of them were at The Bowes Museum on a recent Friday morning, a rather more illustrious group of eleven men made their presence felt.
They had not been seen together in daylight at the Museum for a long time, and caused quite a stir when they appeared just outside Café Bowes just after ten o’clock.
Of course, these were not real people but an exquisite set of eleven Toby Jugs that the Museum owns. They were produced during WW1 to commemorate some of the renowned political and military figures of that time, such as Lord Kitchener, General Botha and Admiral Jellicoe. Museum staff and a few volunteers were there to create a display of the jugs to link with the Museum’s First World War Commemoration Project, and give a potted history of the Toby Jugs to a reporter from the Teesdale Mercury.
The Toby Jugs were unpacked from their storage boxes, and we were quite surprised by their size as some of them are nearly 30cm tall. Even more amazing was that five of the jugs still had their original certificate of authenticity tucked inside them, showing the makers details and numbers of that model made.
Having ransacked the Exhibition store room for display materials, and printed out histories of war heavyweights ranging from Lloyd George to Marshal Foch, we placed all eleven Toby Jugs into the cabinet, together with national flags, and labels to identify each national character.
Intricate details can be seen on the jugs, with Field Marshal Haig sitting astride a tank, Woodrow Wilson holding a bi-plane and King George V clasping a world globe. The fine detail on all the jugs is amazing and we hope the display shows them all off to maximum effect.
By Jane Wilson, Library Volunteer