Johnson Bros, (Hanley) Ltd


Location and period of operation:

Johnson Bros, Hanley Ltd



2003 #

# in 2003 manufacturing ceased in the UK and was moved to China


 (See sources)

Earthenware and Sanitary ware manufacturers. The four 'Johnson Brothers' were Alfred, Frederick, Henry and Robert (Grandsons of the famous Meakin lineage) - sons of Robert Johnson.

Alfred, Frederick began production at the Charles Street works, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent in 1883
for the manufacture of durable Earthenware, which they called "White Granite".
In 1888,  Henry joined them. In addition to manufacturing well-potted white ware, they began producing under-glaze printed ware for which they became famous. Due to the increased demand for pottery after the Civil War, they opened up two new factories in Hanley close to their original factory. By 1898, they had five different factories producing tableware. [Charles Street works, Imperial Works, Hanley Works & Trent Works in Hanley and the Scotia Road works in Tunstall).

Robert, moved to New York in the United States of America around 1896 to establish a presence in the tableware market that was emerging. Johnson Brothers tableware was becoming very popular in America due to its inexpensive and durable product.
Johnson Brothers continued its growth in the tableware industry into World War I. The war taxed the company's work force, shipping capabilities, and raw materials supplies. When the war was over, production was able to resume at its pre-war pace.

At the start of the Twenties, new shapes, patterns, and bodies were introduced and the "Dawn" range of colored bodies began for which Johnson Brothers became very well known. New methods were developed for making halloware items which allowed for a more rapid production over the old method of using pressed clay. At the end of the Twenties, the grandsons of the founders entered the business.

During the Thirties the Charles Street Works, the original factory was closed. It was not until the mid-Thirties that the factories got under full production. At the end of the Thirties, was seen the development of modern systems of firing using electricity as fuel rather than raw coal and new brick-built tunnels using an automatic ware-propelling system replaced the traditional "Bottle Ovens." The more accurately controlled firing system meant better quality and less loss and the conditions for the wokers was much more superior than before. A new mold-making department and making shops accompanied the construction of the electric kiln.

The Second World War came and nearly halted production at Johnson Brothers factories. Although a struggle, the company managed to survive this hardship with sporadic shipments of product to the United States. War damage and the need for increased productivity dictated a major overhaul of the Johnson Brothers factories. Modern equipment and larger facilities were installed to improve the day-to-day production capability of the company. Various plants in England, Canada, and Australia were purchased for decorating and glazing and firing of pieces.

In 1968, to offer access to even larger markets, and to remain competitive, Johnson Brothers joined the Wedgwood Group. Several other manufacturers including Meakin (the Johnson Brother's maternal Grandfather's company), Coalport, Adams, Midwinter, Crown Staffordshire, and Mason's joined, as well.
Around 2000 the tableware division of Johnson's mover to the nearby J & G Meakin Eagle Pottery works where they produced until 2004 when manufacturing was transferred abroad. The Eagle Pottery works were demolished in 2005.

1955 advert for Johnson Brothers

Operating dates for the factories

See details of the Imperial, Trent and Hanley Works


"Founded in 1883 by four brothers, Henry, Robert, Alfred and Fred Johnson. The business was at first on a modest scale, but in the last 70 years has expanded until today Johnson Bros. is probably the largest firm of earthenware manufacturers in the world, controlling a number of factories in England and abroad. The present head of the firm is Sir Ernest Johnson.
Starting with the production of 'Granite' for overseas markets, the firm has developed in the twentieth century fine self-coloured bodies, Gray dawn in 1929, followed by Rose, Green and Golden dawn. A new shape has been made each year. Finley engraved table wares are a specialty, 'Old Britain Castles' engraved by Fennell being one of the most notable.
The potting of this firm is distinguished by uncommon lightness and finish."

Pottery and Glass, March 1946. 

"Before the first World War Johnson Bros. Ltd. owned a sanitary earthenware factory in Germany, but it was closed down in 1914. In 1947 Johnsons acquired a controlling interest in the Canadian tableware business of Sovereign Pottery Ltd. at Hamilton, Ontario along with its factory. In 1957 Johnsons opened a tableware factory at Croydon, Queensland, Australia, which was run through a firm also known as Sovereign Pottery Ltd." 

The Victoria History of the County of Stafford. Vol II 1967


Initials and marks used on ware for identification:






They superseded J. W. Pankhurst & Co at the Charles Street Works,
Hanley when Pankhurst became bankrupt in 1882. 

Late Pankhurst & Co.
Johnson Bros
Late Pankhurst & Co.

very early Johnson Bros mark


used as a printed mark

on the use of the Royal Arms




Operating dates of the factories:-

Charles Street Works - corner of Charles Street and Old Hall Street, the Johnson Brothers took over this works from Pankhurst & Co in 1883 it closed in the 1930's

Trent Potteries - Fronting Eastwood Road and producing predominantly sanitary ware,  these works were opened in 1896 - they closed in c.2004 and were demolished in 2005.

Both the Imperial and Hanley Potteries (again on Eastwood Road) were in full operation by 1900. They had closed by the mid-late 1990's and were demolished in 2005.

The Johnson Brothers also had a works in Scotia Road, Tunstall from 1899 to 1913 (or perhaps 1948?)   

click for details of markings on Johnson Bros ware:-

 questions/comments/contributions: Steve Birks

updated: March 2008