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Home > Surrey > Tolworth > Toby Jug

Toby Jug

Date of photo: 1934

Picture source: Tim Harrison

The Toby Jug was situated on the A3. This pub has now been demolished.

Many acts played there 35-40 years ago, including Led Zeppelin, David Bowie (first night of Ziggy Stardust tour on 10 January 1972!), Yardbirds, Jethro Tull, Squeeze, Ten Years After and King Crimson (see tickets below).

Paul Bullen (July 2011)
I was living in Guildford during most of 1969 and saw Led Zeppelin at the Toby jug. I remember it as a small venue with the audience almost next to the band. Seemed to be more than the average number of young girls hanging around! Interesting gig list for the pub, seems amazing now but that was normal for the times. Indeed Zeppelin had played the Boat Club in Nottingham a few days earlier which was a regular haunt of mine, a few days later they were in San Francisco playing the Filmore! Tragic that the place is gone, but still got the memories
Alan Wood (September 2011)
David Bowie played at the Toby Jug 40 years ago , launching the ZiggyStardust Tour. To commemorate this, a poster has been put on display on the yellow hoarding , courtesy of Mr Chris Rosam .
John Mather (March 2012)
I went there every night for the blues night on a wednesday and also the progressive night on the friday. I saw Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters , and YES, Taste, Blodwyn Pig etc ext. It was the best music venue in the area. I saw Led Zeppelin, Steamhammer, many others .
I am so pleased I was there. I was only 15 but the people there were magnificent. Wonderful music and wonderful people.
In later life I have met others who used to go there. Also visited Eel Pie Island regularly. Ricky Ticks and the Kingston Hotel.
Wonderful times. Kingston poly, KCFE and the art school. Wonderful bands. Hawkwind?
Love to all who were there and more to those who missed out.
Charles Clark (July 2016)
Great to see so many people still remembering this music venue. I moved  to Tolworth in 1973, and having seen the ads in melody maker during the 60s was pleased to see the Toby Jug was still in action. During the 70’s I saw  Motörhead, the stranglers, Squeeze,The Damned,Jackson Heights,The Vibrators, The Fabulous Poodles, Ultravox and a few others my 69 years have allowed me to have forgotten. Like everyone else I was gutted when the pub was pulled down. 
Bryan Heffer (December 2018)
I am pretty sure it was 1967 when I first saw Taste at the Toby Jug. As others have said it was not a big performing area and the stage used to be in the far right hand corner and if my memory serves me right it was less than a foot high. The public could just stand right up next to it but of course there were no teenyboppers there as it was full of real music fans. The Blues revival of there late 60’s saw a steady stream of relevant bands play there and for me a band was measured by how good the lead guitarist was (Silly I know but I was totally in love with the guitar). The most electrifying band by far was Taste, headed by Rory Gallagher. I just had no idea the guitar could be played like that. I never forget at the interval Rory was just at the bar getting a drink so I had to say how fantastic the first set was. He was so humble: “Oh do you think so, thank you very much, thank you very much (in his strong Irish accent). Moments like that you never forget especially as he went on to become one of the greatest ever guitar legends. I never found their recordings very fulfilling because they just didn’t have the raw power and excitement of there live performances. The Toby Jug is part of my DNA as are the memories or Rory. After seeing him for the first time I saved up to buy my first (second-hand) Strat, a 1963 model that I bought in Ealing for £69. Ah, those were the days!!
Alastair Dickenson (January 2022)
Although it was a roadhouse on the Kingston By-Pass, the Toby Jug pub was - as other contributors have said - one of the key suburban London music venues of the 1960s and 70s.
Its two proudest moments were the Led Zeppelin gig in April 1969, and Bowie's launch of Ziggy Stardust half a century ago.
For the past five yearsmemories  I've been researching the pub, interviewing people who worked there, drank there and played there, and I've published a history of the pub, including a comprehensive gig list with dates and of those who were there.
Fifty years ago, a scribbled pencil entry in a large diary on the desk of an office off King’s Road, Chelsea, was overwritten and underlined in black ink, confirming the first date of a year-and-a-half tour which made music history. On February 10 1972, David Bowie took his first steps into the light as Ziggy Stardust, on the shallow stage of the side room of this 1930s pub in – of all places – Tolworth.
There were 60 people in the function room of the Toby Jug pub, which stood at an angle to the roundabout, diagonally opposite Tolworth Tower, above the A3 underpass which had been completed two years earlier.
The office assistant who inked in the first date on the Ziggy tour, which went on to fill arenas across the USA and Japan, was Nicky Graham, a 26-year-old pianist who was among that select audience with his girlfriend. It was the first gig featuring the officially named Spiders from Mars, as drummer Mick Woodmansey had just spent half an hour that evening cutting out strips of black gaffer tape to spell out the name on the skin of his Ludwig bass drum.
Sound engineer Robin Mayhew had set up the equipment in the late afternoon, but was worried about whether the electricity would hold out. The first Ziggy gig was held in the middle of a seven-week miners’ strike. Power cuts were frequent, and – to conserve supplies – only one in three of the streetlights on the By-Pass was lit. In the end, all went well. Bowie performed brilliantly on the cramped foot-high stage, fuelled by a bottle of brown ale which had been ferried up to the band’s changing room on the first floor of the pub by Alan Stevens, a young barman who was helping out his grandad Len, the relief manager of the roadhouse.
Although it was the start of the Ziggy Stardust tour, the only LP that the girl from the RCA label had to sell at the door was Hunky Dory, at £3 a time.
Recording-wise, everything was out of synch. In fact, David Bowie and his Spiders – Woodmansey, Mick Ronson and Trevor Bolder – had just finished laying down the tracks Suffragette City, Starman and Rock ’n’ Roll Suicide for the new Ziggy album in the week of the Tolworth gig. That LP wouldn’t be released for another four months.
Among those in the audience was Pete McSweeney, who had just celebrated his 18th birthday and had spent £25 on a yellow Ford Popular with a blue ‘go-faster’ stripe down the bonnet. He left his home in Blagdon Road, New Malden, and picked up three mates to drive to the Toby Jug’s car park. The four paid 50p each at the door – the coins going into a dimpled beermug on a table at the entrance. “My main memory of the gig itself is of Bowie when he played Space Oddity; it wasn’t like a big production sound, it was very simple. I was knocked out by it.”
After the gig, Bowie and the Spiders – in full glam rock costume – stayed at the bar for a couple of drinks with some of the punters. “David was stunned by the success,” said soundman Robin Mayhew, looking back half a century.
Mick ‘Woody’ Woodmansey recalled: “We’d hang around with the crowd after the show, wearing all this finery because we hadn’t yet got into the mindset of leaving the stage and locking ourselves away in the dressing room after we’d played.”
The singles charts of 1972 were filling up with performers in tinsel-edged outfits and glitzy make-up. As Ziggy Stardust was taking his first steps, Bowie’s old mate Marc Bolan was top of the album and singles charts with Electric Warrior and Telegram Sam. Bowie and Bolan had worked together as teenagers in a music manager’s office in Soho.
To complete my book I tracked down 20 of those who were present on that chilly night in Tolworth, and pooled their memories to create a detailed story of the gig. I also burrowed into the history of the pub itself, built by Charrington in 1934 on the recently opened By-Pass as a roadside inn to serve the growing army of private car owners.
The Toby Jug was to become one of Britain’s key live music centres, with bands from Genesis to Fleetwood Mac, The Stranglers to Rod Stewart, performing on its tiny stage.
Another extraordinary night was April 16 1969, when Led Zeppelin – breaking up a long tour of the USA – flew back to see their families and honour a commitment to play at the Toby, in front of just 250 people.
That gig saw John Paul Jones arrive at Tolworth station on the Chessington train from Waterloo, guitar case in hand, to play a gig on the smallest stage that the supergroup ever graced.
But the pub had other curious claims to fame. It was the centre of a Russian spy scandal in the early 1960s, when Britain’s nuclear submarine secrets were sold to a Soviet agent in the saloon bar.
It was also the workplace of John Lennon’s dad, Freddie, who lived in one of the eight upstairs bedrooms, and got down on one knee in the sawdust of the walk-in larder to propose to Surbiton teenager Pauline Jones!
Like all 1930s pubs, built in an age before television and cheap supermarket booze, the Toby Jug struggled to attract a regular crowd during the 1980s and 90s.
The brewery tried everything to compete: disco nights, cut-price meals, big-screen football matches, pool competitions. But the pub closed in 2001, was bought by Tesco with a view to building a supermarket, and was demolished in 2002.
For the past 20 years it has been an empty site, alongside the Hollywood bowling alley, with house-building finally beginning as a new chapter dawns.
On January 11 2016, when news of Bowie’s death broke, the yellow hoardings which encircled the site of the pub were decorated with hand-made posters paying tribute to a musician who put Tolworth on the map.
Hello Tolworth, I’m Ziggy, by Tim Harrison, is published in a limited, numbered edition by Good Life Publishing at £15. Copies (signed if requested) are available via
Tim Harrison (October 2022)

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Name Dates Comments
Steve Dallen 1970s Interesting reading about the bands featured at the good old Toby. I lived a ten minute walk from the pub, and saw many bands there over a period in the early seventies. Not sure exactly when, or even who (probably due to beer/ other substances!), but I certainly remember seeing Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green. Those were the days!
Anthony Box 1968 I lived in Ewell and used to cycle here to see what would go on to be some of the greatest bands. I particularly remember "Free" as I was intrigued by the base player Andy who hardly moved except for his fingers, and the fantastic guitar of Paul Kossoff, both sadly gone now. Then there was Blodwyn Pig where I sat on the table which had their base players( Andy Pyle) speaker on and feeling my whole insides vibrating.
Other Photos


Pictures source: Paul Bullen

Date of photo: 2001

Picture source: jam6475es

Date of photo: 2012

Picture source: John Mather

Site of The Toby Jug, behind yellow hoarding

Picture source: Dennis Turner

Distinctive roof tiles of The Toby Jug

Picture source: Tim Harrison

Ian Anderson in the Green Room at The Toby Jug

Picture source: Tim Harrison

Demolition of The Toby Jug

Picture source: Tim Harrison