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Here is what we think is the only comprehensive record of pubs and beerhouses within the Coventry city boundaries going back as far as available records allow. This is an ongoing project so contributions, corrections or additions to this archive, especially anecdotes, photos and media are most welcome. Feel free to contact us for a pint and a chat anytime.

The Toby's Head


Bayley Lane from Pepper Lane in 1932. The Toby's Head pub is the one in the foreground on the right. We can just make out the gable of the Golden Cross beyond. The Old County Court still survives as the last building on the left before the cathedral and is now a bar-cum-restuarant called The Establishment.


Edward King, son of a farrier in High Street, Coventry, was bound as an apprentice to his uncle Abel, a bookseller in London. Abel later turned to producing a newspaper. Edward, having a cast in both eyes and a face covered in warts was noticeable wherever he went. One day going upstairs at the Tilt-Yard Coffee House to speak to his uncle, Edward's face caught the attention of Captain Drake, a clerk at the Aldmiralty, who shouted 'here comes Toby', though he had never seen him before. Why Toby I cannot say, but from that day on Edward King never used any other name.

The uncle's business did not thrive, so Toby returned to Coventry and established Toby's Coffee House, selling strong ale and drams as well as coffee. The sign at the premises was Toby's Head. He died about 1726.

From 1921 to 1927 it was advertised as a 'Free house. Good bedroom accommodation'.

It closed on 15th Novenber 1940, so another victim of enemy action.

to 1726 Toby (Edward) King
1822 - 1823 Richard Elton
1835 - 1851 Charles Rose maltster & victualler
1861 - 1896 John Smith
1903 - 1909 Mrs Hannah Watson
1911 - 1913 Watson & Arch
1924 - 1927 Charles Hitchcox (see also at the Old Windmill, 22 Spon Street in 1914 and the Horse and Jockey, Much Park Street in 1916) (Thanks to Malcolm Croft for info)
1929 - 1932 E. G. Clarke
1933 - 1940 E. Bradley
to 1726 Toby (Edward) King

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Click here to see Research

Source 12 No12 Publicans Signs 2

...the writer simply enumerated, without remark, one of our well - known signs, and one that I think is unique; I mean ' The Toby's Head '. It is not only one of the most curious, but one of the best painted, signs in the city......Perhaps the writer of the papers on signs, ,or some other reader of these Memoranda will be able toi enlighten me on this ' head '.

J. C.

No13 Publicans Signs 3

Uncle Toby and Tristram Shandy are advanced as the origin of 'Toby's Head ' by W. G. F.

Toby Philpott advanced by A. L.

No14 The Toby's Head

.......the sign, be it remebered, is not ' Uncle Toby ', nor ' Toby Philpott ', but ' Toby's Head '. The true origin of it is fully explained in ' Caulfields Memoirs of Remarkable Persons ', Vol 1 page 125, where may be fould a portrait of Toby himself.......' Edward King was the son of a farrier, in High Street, Coventry......his uncle Abel having been successful in trade, sent for his nephew to London, and bound him apprentise to himself, as a bookseller, but soon after, leaving off shopkeeping, and making it his whole business to collect news for his ' Post Boy ', he wanted someone to attend him, and carry his copy to the printer, and in this capacity he employed his nephew, who having a remrkable cast in each of his eyes, and a face covered in warts, was particularly noticed wherever he went. One day, going upstairs at the Tilt-Yard Coffee House, Whitehall, to speak with his uncle, his singular phiz attracted the attention of Captain Drake one of the clerks of the Admiralty Office, who spontaneously ejaculated, ' here comes Toby ', though he had never seen his comical face before. And from that moment Edward King hardly went by any other name.

His uncle's business did not thrive......money....being in time pretty well exhausted, and not knowing how to get more in an honest way, Toby takes a trip to Coventry, the place of his nativity, where his father-in-law, a farrier, gave him a kind reception, and took a little house for him, which in time was launched under the name of Toby's Coffee House; and there Toby sold strong ale, codde and drams....the gentlemen of the city and county ( of the Tory party ) frequented his house.....and observing that poor Toby had no sign, they thought fit to hang at his door as his own sweet phiz, which they therefore desired Mr Fry, to take upon a board of Toby's own providing, which he did accordingly....He died about 1726

Before 1726 Source 12 Opened

1808 JA32 Pa56/108/31-32 The Tobys Head society ( friendly ) has been dissolved

1851 Source 49 Board of Health Map

28.8.1878 LJ Vol 1 P40 TOBYS HEAD, Pepper Lane Alehouse
Owner : John Smith Esq
Licensee : John Smith
14.5.1898 TOL to Sarah Elizabeth Smith
27.10.1898 TOL to Hannah Watson

1887 CIC P7 Photo

? SEF P81 Photo

1921/22 Spennell }

1924 P. James } Free house. Good bedroom accommodation

1926/27 P. James }

c1927 Source 46 Charles Alfred Hitchcox lostlicense for allowing gaming

c1932 CWL P15 Photo

15.11./1940 Closed

15.11.1940 JA Closed due to the blitz


to 1726 Source12 Edward ( Toby ) King

1822/23 Pigot Richard Eaton

1828/29 Pigot Giles Smith

1835 Pigot Charles Rose

1841 Pigot Charles Rose

1841 Census Charles Rose 35 yo maltster b Wks m Ann, 35

1845 Kelly C. Rose

1850 COS Charles Rose

1851 Census Charles Rose 45 yo maltster & victualler b Coventry alone

1861 Census John Smith 33 yo b Coventry m Sarah E., 30 & 2d, 1s, 1 nephew,

1868 Buchanan John Smith [ 1 visitor, 1 servant

1871 Census John Smith 42 yo b Coventry m Sarah E., 40 & 2s, 4d, 2 servants

1874 C&B J. Smith
1878 LJ Vol 1 P40 John Smith
1879 Stevens John Smith

1881 C&B J. Smith

1886 C&B J. Smith

1890/91 R&G J. Smith

1893 Reporter J. Smith

1894 R&G J. Smith

1896 R&G J. Smith
1898 LJ Vol 1 P40 John Smith
1898 LJ Vol 1 P40 Sarah Elizabeth Smith
1898 LJ Vol 1 P40 Hannah Watson
1903 R&G Miss Hannah Watson

1905 R&G Miss Hannah Watson

1909 R&G Miss Hannah Watson

1911/12 Spennell Watson & Arch

1912/13 Spennell Watson & Arch

1921/22 Spennell Licensees name not given
1924 Source 52 Charles Hitchcox

1924 P. James Charles Hitchcox

1926/27 P. James Charles Hitchcox
1927 Source 46 & 52 Charles Alfred Hitchcox

1929 P. James E. G. Clarke

1931/32 P. James E. G. Clarke

1933/34 P. James E. Bradley

1935/36 P. James E. Bradley

1937/38 P. James E. Bradley

1939/40 P. James E. Bradley


to 1726 Source 12 Edward ( Toby ) King
1878 LJ Vol 1 P40 John Smith Esq
1898 LJ Vol 1 P40 John Smith Esq

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