The James Howell store was first established in 1867 and specialised in furnishing and drapery. Over the next 30 years James Howell had transformed much of the site through a number of phases of building and had unified frontages to both St Mary and Trinity Street.
The Howells Timeline
James Howell & Co drapers opens in The Hayes
The shop moves to a new location on St Mary Street
The store expands and extends from Trinity Street to St Mary Street
The site is mostly developed
The store has more that 400 staff
James Howell dies aged 74 leaving the business to his 11 children.
Completion The Percy building
Howells family sell the business to JJ Allen Ltd
House of Fraser acquires the site
Store loses the ‘Howells’ name and rebrands a ‘House of Fraser’
Sports Direct acquires House of Fraser
Acquired by Thackeray Group
The store closes it doors and begins a new chapter
In the years prior to and immediately following James Howell’s death in 1909 there was a lull in construction works until 1924 when a new arcade and grill room were opened at Howells. The arcade, now lost, created access to Wharton Street from the store for the first time.
In 1935, Thomas also designed the eleven-bay building on Wharton Street, however it was not connected to The Percy. An alleyway was left to allow access to the Bethany Baptist Chapel which was otherwise hemmed in by Howell’s buildings.
The Percy was completed in 1931 to the designs of the prominent Welsh architect Percy Thomas. Thomas, the President of the RIBA in 1935 and foremost inter-war designer of municipal buildings in Wales, was commissioned to design a modern building for the firm.
Howells’ children sold the business in October 1962 to JJ Allen Ltd of Bournemouth. In March 1963, it was bought by the Hodge Group who, in turn, sold it to House of Fraser in 1972. The Howell’s name remained until it rebranded as House of Fraser in the 2010s.
Bethany Baptist Chapel was first built in 1807 on St Mary Street. It was rebuilt in 1821-1827 and was enlarged in 1840. The chapel was rebuilt again in 1865 to the design of John Hartland of Cardiff. As the city began to grow and expand, access to the chapel became difficult as it was surrounded by commercial buildings.
In the 1960s, the chapel’s congregation moved to premises in Rhiwbina and Howell’s took control of the whole block south of the market. Howells incorporated the chapel into the shop floor keeping many of it’s original features such as the lower front arches, memorial plaque, the balcony arcade and the cast-iron pillars.
In 2022 Thackery Group acquired the site from the House of Fraser owners Sports Direct. The store closed its doors for the last time in March 2023 and so begins a new chapter…
A NEW ERA