The company's name derives from the names of the company's founders. The four original 'Johnson Brothers' were Alfred, Frederik, Henry and Robert. Their father married the daughter of a master potter, Alfred Meakin. In 1883 Alfred and Frederick Johnson began production at a defunct pottery known as the Charles Street Works they had purchased at a bankruptcy sale in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. At first they specialised in the manufacture of durable earthenware which they called "White Granite". The success of this venture led to rapid expansion. In 1888, Rev. Henry Johnson joined them, followed ten years later by a fourth brother Robert Johnson.