Notes from the Master Potter – Chris Johnson – June 2016

As the Johnson Brothers Business prospered, so did the offspring from the Brothers multiply and several more joined the company. Robert lived in palatial style at Butterton Hall, an enormous Victorian pile outside Newcastle u Lyme. It was reputed that the main hall was large enough for a coach and four to turn round in it. It was requisitioned in the the 1914-1918 and then demolished. The founders of the business made it a rule that only two sons from each family could go into any of the businesses. As a consequence Robert ensured that his six sons would be split. Ernest and Lewis were appointed to Johnson Brothers, Harry and Alfred to H and R Johnson and Stuart and Frank to Alfred Meakin. Unfortunately he chose the wrong pairing. Ernest loathed Lewis, Alfred and Harry had a fraught relationship and Stuart had little respect for Frank. Ernest ran the four Johnson Earthenware Factories – those in Hanley were locally called Top Bank, Middle Bank and Bottom Bank ( ceramic manufacturing factories throughout the Potteries were always called Banks ) – and Lewis ran the Trent Sanitaryware business. Despite the frictions, each business continued to flourish. If Robert had been a little more circumspect in his choice of partners, the fortunes of the various firms could have been dramatically enhanced.