James Howell (1835-1909)

James Howell's first step towards the present Howells department store began with the establishment of a shop under the Stuart Hall in The Hayes, a street near St Mary Street. From there the first part of the current store was built in the late-19th century, this part of the building includes an ornate facade that is visible on St Mary Street. In the 1920s a large and well-proportioned neoclassical extension was built up to the corner of St Mary Street and Heol-y-Cawl. A unique result of this extension was that Bethany Chapel, built on the site of an earlier chapel in 1865, was absorbed into the fabric of the building and its frontage was incorporated into the interior and is still visible in the store today, fronting onto the men's Aquascutum department.

The James Howell empire extended across Wharton Street, connected by a bridge, where a car showroom was built (now Cotswold Outdoor Ltd), and a funeral home was also established by the family on the St Mary Street side of the store. Both these businesses were short lived, and the car showroom was bought by rival David Morgan, who extended his store, and the premises of the funeral home became part of the store.

Howells Department Store was originally a family-run business, owned and managed by the family of James Howell. In the 1950s, the store was sold to Welsh banker Sir Julian Hodge, who subsequently sold the store to Mohammed Al-Fayed, owner of the House of Fraser chain, meaning the store ceased to be an independent department store. The store is still owned by House of Fraser, although the chain was bought by Icelandic investment company, Baugur, in late 2006.

Source Wikipedia

Born 05/08/1835, Died 13/05/1909

Also buried: Fanny Davies, his wife, Drove House born 01/12/1839, died 15/01/1899

1835: James Howell is born in Goodwick, near Fishguard, Pembrokeshire.

1847: Aged 12, James starts working at his father’s farm and learns to speak English. Shortly afterwards, he is advised to find alternative employment and gets work at a local drapers.

1865: The first Howells store opens in The Hayes, Cardiff.

1867: The fabric and furniture store relocates to 13 St Mary Street.

1869: A separate Howells carpet and millinery department opens on the same street, and occupies number 12. Over the next decade, the department store expands further and takes over Bethany Baptist Church.

1896: James commissions the Mansion House, in Roath, Cardiff. He also built the city’s Park Hall – a key social attraction during the 1920s.

1909: James Howell passes away, aged 74.

James Howell, who had been apprenticed to a draper in Fishguard, opened his first draper’s shop under the Stuart Hall in The Hayes, in October 1856. In August 1867, Howells moved to 13 St Mary’s Street, and he bought number 12 in 1869 to open new departments for carpets, furnishings, millinery goods and funeral services. Over the next ten years, he bought a furniture ware house in Wharton Street, and more shops in St Mary.

In 1880 Cardiff Corporation tried to buy Wharton House, the part of the Howells store which faces Wharton Street, but James Howell refused to sell. By 1883, Howells occupied 9-14 St Mary Street and had bought the Biggs Brewery buildings to the rear, fronting Trinity Street. New furniture departments were opened in Trinity Street. In the 1890s, James Howell bought more shops in Wharton Street and Charles Street.

As the business grew, Mr Howell became richer and more respected in Cardiff society, and began to give charitable donations. On January 13th, 1890, Cardiff Council thanked Mr. James Howell for his gift of a prize bullock to the poor of Cardiff, and in 1896 they gave a vote of thanks to Mr. James Howell for ‘his generosity in undertaking to decorate the Exhibition Hall free of charge, on the occasion of the admission of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales’.

Source cadw

Source www.peoplescollection.wales