Howells (department store)

Howells (department store)

Howells is a large department store located on St Mary's Street in Cardiff, Wales. The store was established by James Howell in 1856. It is now part of the House of Fraser group.


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's 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 Marys Street. In the 1920s a large and well-proportioned neoclassical extension was built up to the corner of St Mary's 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 Lakeland Plastics), 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.

Further extensions were added throughout the 1930s, 1950s and 1960s, causing the building to show the architectural trends of the Late Victorian era to the Modernism of the 1960s.

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

While under the ownership of Al-Fayed, the House of Fraser chain prompted controversy with its sale of animal fur, and in the late 1980s activists petrol bombed the Howells store, along with the flagship Harrods store and the stores Plymouth branch. The ethical sourcing policy has now sought to resolve this issue, with the company not using any fur products in its clothing.

In the 1990s the Victorian frontage on St Marys Street, neglected for the best part of 50 years, was cleaned and restored, greatly enhancing the building's appearance.

Present Day

Today, Howells continues to be a major destination for shoppers, being the largest department store in Wales and even more so after the demise of its long-term rival David Morgan in January 2005.

The store boasts around 150,000 square foot of selling space, making it one of the largest stores in the House of Fraser chain.


The store is due to undergo a multi-million pound refurbishment, which will bring in new fashion labels and modernise the store to bring it in line with the new John Lewis store due to open in 2009. The department store itself will also be rebranded from 'Howells' to the core marque 'House of Fraser', however due to the store's status as a listed building, the 'James Howell & Co' signs will remain.

In the media

The store is used as a set both inside and outside in the BBC serious Doctor Who. In the first episode, the store was blown up, and it has subsequently been used as the set for Rose Tylers workplace, "Henrik's". []


*Various Contributors, Edited by Stewart Williams. "The Cardiff Book No.1." Stewart Williams Publishers 1973 ISBN No. 0-900807-05-9
*Various Contributors, Edited by Stewart Williams. "The Cardiff Book, Volume 2." Stewart Williams Publishers 1974 ISBN No. 0-900807-09-1
*Peter Finch. "Real Cardiff, Volume Two, The Greater City." Seren 2004 ISBN No. 1-85411-384-4 pp. 50. 83.

External links

* [ Official site]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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