Johnson Bros, (Hanley) Ltd


Location and period of operation:

Johnson Bros, Hanley Ltd



2003 #


# In 2003 manufacture of ware under the Johnson Brothers name was transferred to China. In 2015 the use of the name was discontinued. 

Earthenware and Sanitary ware manufacturers at a number of factories in Hanley and Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, England.

  • There were four 'Johnson Brothers' - Alfred, Frederick, Henry and Robert - sons of Robert Johnson and grandsons of the famous Meakin pottery family lineage.

  • In 1883 Alfred and Frederick took over the Charles Street Works, Hanley from Pankhurst & Co. and began manufacturing durable earthenware, which they called 'White Granite'. 

  • In 1888 by their brother Henry joined the business.

  • In addition to manufacturing white ware, they began producing under-glaze transferware for which they became famous. Due to the increased demand for pottery in North America, they opened up additional factories. 

  • The Trent Potteries was opened in 1896, fronting Eastwood Road and the Caldon Canal - these works produced sanitary ware. 

  • By 1898, they had five factories in Stoke-on-Trent - Charles Street Works, the Imperial Works, the Hanley Works & Trent Works - all in Hanley and the Scotia Road works in the nearby town of Tunstall.

  • Around 1896 Robert Johnson moved to New York to promote the business in the USA.

  • Johnson Brothers tableware became very popular in America due to its inexpensive, durable and well finished product.

  • Johnson Brothers continued its growth in the tableware industry, exporting large quantities to North America and the colonial markets.  

  • Before the first World War Johnson Brothers owned a sanitary earthenware factory in Germany, but it was closed down in 1914.

  • As with all manufacturing, the first World War affected 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.

  • The local authority was developing Hanley town centre and as a consequence of this the Charles Street works was closed in the mid 1930s.

  • By the mid 1940s Johnson Brothers was one of the world's largest manufacturers of earthenware and ironstone china. 

  • Some production continued during the Second World War under the Wartime Concentration Scheme. Following the ware modern equipment and improved facilities were installed to improve the day-to-day production capability of the company.

  • In 1947 the company acquired a controlling interest in the Canadian tableware business and factory of Sovereign Pottery Ltd. at Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. 

  • In 1957 Johnson Brothers opened a tableware factory at Croydon Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, which was operated through a company also known as Sovereign Pottery Ltd. 

  • 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 also joined Wedgwood.

  • Following the acquisition by Wedgwood the Johnson industrial pottery businesses were sold off. Production of domestic ware under the Johnson name continued as part of the Wedgwood Creative Tableware Division. 

  • At sometime use of the Johnson name was discontinued. It was revived in 1991 and became the Waterford Wedgwood Group's key earthenware brand name. 

  • Around 2000 the manufacture of Johnson Bros tableware was moved to the nearby J & G Meakin Eagle Pottery works (which was also part of the Waterford Wedgwood Group).

  • In 2003 manufacture of ware under the Johnson Brothers name ceased in the UK and was transferred to China. 

  • In 2015, the Waterford Wedgwood group was acquired by the Finnish company Fiskars, which continued the Waterford and Wedgwood brands, but discontinued production of Johnson Brothers.




Scotia Road (Tunstall)
Johnson Bros. (Hanley) Ltd., 
earthenware manufacturers, 
Alexandra Pottery

Earthenware Manufacturers (Hanley)
Johnson Bros. (Hanley) Ltd.,
Hanley Pottery,
Imperial Pottery,
Charles-street Pottery, 
& Alexandra Pottery

  from: 1907 Staffordshire Sentinel 
'Business Reference Guide to The Potteries, Newcastle & District'



Sanitary ware:

By the 1880s, 'open plumbing' was becoming acceptable, with the porcelain fixtures in full view, instead of hidden in elaborate wooden surrounds. 

Of course, the Victorians then did to these newly visible vessels what they did best—they covered them with intricate embossing, magnificent glazing, and gilded decoration. Late Victorian toilets were masterpieces of the potter’s art, incorporating everything from Japanese and Delft-inspired motifs to classical dolphins and the curling trunks of elephants. 

Transfer decoration, of the type used for decorating dinner ware was used to give decoration at a low cost. 

During 1900-1910, the early washout closets were replaced by more efficient washdown and siphon-jet models; high water tanks started to be replaced by low tanks; and ornamentation, besides the occasional tasteful beading, virtually disappeared in favor of smooth, white, sanitary (i.e., easy to keep clean) surfaces.

By 1910, toilets had pretty much arrived at a form and function not vastly different from today. A one-piece vitreous earthenware toilet appeared in 1922, and by the late 1920s coloured porcelain glazes had arrived. 


The Johnson Brothers Trent Sanitary Works - from 1916 catalogue

- click for more on the Trent Works -



Johnson Brothers Patent "Victrion" Syphonic Closet Suite  




Johnson Bros. Hanley England

VICTRION and INSIGNIS were registered trade names
The registration numbers give a registered date of 1893



The Puritas

introduced c.1894 

The Progress

introduced c.1898 

Johnson Bros. washdown closets




Johnson Bros 

Johnson Brothers Hanley Limited

both these marks carry the Royal Arms  



Johnson Brothers Hanley Limited
Made in England

INSIGNIS was the registered trade name


Dinner and tea ware:

Johnson Brothers were one of the most successful Stoke-on-Trent tableware manufacturers, much of the ware was exported, especially to the United States. Some of its designs, such as 'Eternal Beau', 'Dawn', 'Old Britain Castles' and 'Historic America', achieved widespread popularity 

At the start of the 1920s, new shapes, patterns, and bodies were introduced including the popular 'Dawn' range of coloured ware, which continued well into the 1960s.

'Old Britain Castles' was introduced around 1930 and 'Historic America' around 1938.

After 1968 Johnson Brothers joined the Wedgwood Group in this was the period during which the popular 'Summerfields' range was produced. In 1981, Johnson Brothers launched the famous 'Heritage' range, including one of the most popular earthenware range of all time - 'Eternal Beau'.

After Wedgwood's acquisition of the American 'Franciscan Tableware' brand in 1979 Johnson Bros. started to make Franciscan ware for both the UK and US markets. From 1984 Johnson Bros. were the only manufacturer of this brand.


"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. 



Johnson Bros. (Hanley) Ltd
Manufacturers of Dinner Ware, Tea Ware, etc.
"Carnival" Ware  'Graydawn'

Prestige and Progress - A Survey of Industrial North Staffordshire
1955 publication of North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce



Johnson Bros white ironstone jug



Transferware ware plate in the aesthetic style
the pattern is called NÂGA

Johnson Brothers produced these plates for the retailer Dunlop & Co in Rangoon, Burma. 

The pattern was registered at the UK Designs Registry on the 30th November 1895. In Southeast Asian folklore, the Phaya Naga are serpent-like creatures, believed by locals to live in the Mekong river or estuaries. 

Johnson Bros

the registration number 266737 shows that the pattern was first registered in 1895  


Royal Ironstone China
Johnson Bros

Dunlop & Co 

photos courtesy: Jacob Otte





dinner ware in the Rosedawn pattern 

At the start of the 1920s, new shapes, patterns, and bodies were introduced 
including the popular 'Dawn' range of coloured ware, which continued well into the 1960s.




sauce boat - part of the Old Britain Castle series

'Old Britain Castles' was introduced around 1930



dinner set and accessories in the Eternal Beau pattern

In 1981, Johnson Brothers launched the famous 'Heritage' range, 
including one of the most popular earthenware range of all time - 'Eternal Beau'.


backstamps vary but the pattern is identical


cups and saucers in the Spring Medley pattern



Initials and marks used on ware for identification:








Royal Ironstone China
Johnson Bros.
Late Pankhurst & Co.


Royal Ironstone China
Johnson Bros.


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

information on the use of the Royal Arms


Royal Semi-Porcelain
Johnson Bros.



typical Johnson Bros. marks with a crown 

c.1913 onwards



Johnson Bros.




style of mark with a crown above a globe
this mark does not appear in the directories and a period of use
is not known - it appears to have been used on transfer decorated
dinner ware with a simple outline decoration of hedgerow plants and flowers



Johnson Bros
Dishwasher and Microwave Safe

 'Bull in a China Shop' was originally used as a trading name and advertising campaign by J & G Meakin from 1965]

In 1980 "Bull in a China Shop" used as a brand name for Wedgwood group Creative Tableware Division inc. Johnson Brothers, J&G Meakin, Midwinter, Unicorn and

Johnson Bros
England 1883

These marks appear on ware that was produced in China NOT in England 

In 2003 manufacture of ware under the Johnson Brothers name 
was transferred to China. In 2015 the use of the name was discontinued. 



Johnson Bros
Since 1883
Made in England 

for comparison this is the mark used  in the 1990s 
it has the words 'Made in' 


Johnson Brothers, Australia 

In 1957 Johnson Brothers opened a tableware factory at Croydon Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, which was operated through a company known as Sovereign Pottery Ltd. 

Stephen Johnson, who arrived from England in 1957 to set up the family pottery in the outer eastern suburb of Croydon, brought out with him five senior managers and their families. As well as well as recruiting local staff some employees were immigrants from Stoke-on-Trent, England.  

There was considerable encouragement from the Australian government for this move in the post-World War II era when priority was given to attracting manufacturing industries from overseas. Stelphen Johnson spent about 25 years running the operation.

See obituary for Stephen Johnson



Johnson of Australia


 Questions, comments, contributions?  email: Steve Birks