Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Johnson Brothers (Hanley)

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of Hanley Pottery, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs

The four Johnson Brothers were Alfred, Frederick, Henry and Robert (grandsons of the famous Meakin lineage) - sons of Robert Johnson.

1883 Alfred and Frederick began production at the Charles Street works, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent for the manufacture of durable Earthenware, which they called "White Granite".

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.

1898 They had five different factories producing tableware. (Charles Street works, Imperial Works, Hanley Works and Trent Works in Hanley and the Scotia Road works in Tunstall).

c1896 Robert moved to New York to establish a presence in the tableware market that was emerging. Johnson Brothers tableware was becoming very popular in America due to being inexpensive and durable.

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.

1920s New shapes, patterns, and bodies were introduced. 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.

1930s The original Charles Street Works was closed. It was not until the mid-Thirties that the factories got under full production. At the end of the Thirties saw 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 accurately controlled firing system meant better quality and less loss and the conditions for the workers improved greatly. A new mold-making department and making shops accompanied the construction of the electric kiln.

World War II Production at Johnson Brothers factories almost stopped. Although a struggle, the company managed to survive this hardship with sporadic shipments of product to the US. 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.

1947 Advert in British Industries Fair Catalogue as Exhibiting Member of the British Pottery Manufacturers' Federation of Federation House, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Composite Exhibit. (Pottery and Glassware Section - Olympia, Ground floor, Stand No. A.1197) [1]

1960s - one of the leaders of the earthenware market, specialising in low-medium value products.

1968 To offer access to even larger markets, and to remain competitive, Johnson Brothers joined the Wedgwood Group.

Around this time several other manufacturers, including Meakin (the Johnson Brother's maternal grandfather's company), Coalport China, Adams, Midwinter, Crown Staffordshire, and Mason's, joined as well.


Note: Around 2000 the tableware division of Johnson's moved to the nearby J. and G. Meakin Eagle Pottery, where they produced china until 2004, when manufacturing was transferred abroad. The Eagle Pottery was demolished in 2005.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1947 British Industries Fair Adverts 398 and 399; and p149
  • [1] The Potteries Website