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History of Howden

We provide our customers with engineering expertise based on a long history of innovation in the air and gas handling field, and our past achievements still inform the way we work today.

Find out more about our 160 years of innovation in the table below, or by reading David Hume's book on the Howden Heritage at the bottom of the page.

In 1854, aged 22, James Howden set up his own consulting engineering business in Glasgow, Scotland, competing against professional engineers of greater age and experience. The focus was on machine tools and he was granted Letters Patent for improvements in the manufacture of rivets, bolts, spikes, screw blanks and other articles. The first Howden engineering works at 4 Scotland Street, Glasgow, was built in 1862 to construct engines and boilers for use in ships.


James Howden portrait1857
James Howden commences the design and supply of boilers and steam engines for the marine industry. .
James Howden patents a method of preheating combustion air.
James Howden introduces a furnace mechanical draught system which uses a steam turbine driven axial flow fan.
Benjamin Franklin Sturtevant patents a rotary exhaust fan.
BF Sturtevant Co pioneers the use of mechanical draught fans for ventilation in the marine industry when its fans are fitted on the USS Alliance.
Bryan Donkin Co pioneers the use of gas boosting at Beckton Gas Works in UK.
James Howden patents the 'Howden System of Forced Draught' which combines mechanical draught with the transfer of heat from the flue gases to the combustion air.
Buffalo Forge Co pioneers the use of centralised heated air circulation for building ventilation.
Buffalo Forge factory1895
Buffalo Forge Co becomes known as “The Birthplace of Air Conditioning” when it designs the first practical cooling system for the Auditorium Hotel in Chicago.
Samuel Davidson invents the forward bladed centrifugal fan - the 'Sirocco' fan.
Howden commences manufacture of steam turbines for use in the power generation industry.
The Wallsend-Howden oil fired burner is developed to work in combination with the company's forced draught system.
Bryan Donkin Co commences manufacture of turbo-exhausters and blowers based on the Rateau principle.
Howden designs and supplies water tube boilers for the marine propulsion industry.
The largest turbo-generator running in the UK (a 15MW unit for Manchester Corporation) is supplied by James Howden & Co.
Buffalo Forge publishes the first edition of 'Fan Engineering', the industry-standard reference work on air and gas movement.
The metal diaphragm compressor is invented by H Corblin.
Late '10s
BF Sturtevant invents the backward-inclined bladed centrifugal fan.

The Davidson mechanical dust collector is patented.
In conjunction with ICI, Howden develops a flue gas desulphurisation (FGD ) system for use in power stations.
James Howden & Co Ltd  licences the screw compressor from SRM in Sweden and is the first company to commercialise the technology.
Stork brothers develops the aerofoil bladed centrifugal fan. Joint development work with Howden raises the efficiency of centrifugal fans to 90%.

Howden supplies the main blowers for the world's first two large nuclear reactors at Windscale, UK.
Howden Quarterly 19561951 
Nordisk Ventoliator Co. supplies the world’s first variable pitch axial flow fan in the power generation industry.
James Howden & Co receives the order for the world's first submerged gas circulators for the UK AGR  programme.
Howden Canada supplies the turbo-generators to the world's first large CANDU nuclear power station, the 4x514MW Pickering A station near Toronto.

Howden supplies the first wind turbine in the utility industry in the United Kingdom.
Howden supplies 26MW of wind turbine capacity to Altamont Pass, California.
Howden designs and launches an ultra low noise cooling fan.
Large centrifugal fan impellers which are tolerant of dynamic excitation under off-load duties are introduced by Howden.
Large centrifugal boster fans with rotors designed to run above their critical speed supplied to Howden customers.
Howden develops a fully submerged gas circulator running on magnetic bearings for handling helium as a nuclear reactor core coolant.
Introduction of super-high pressure blading for modern single and two-stage axial fans.


Business development

James Howden sets up business working as a consulting engineer in Glasgow.
BF Sturtevant builds the largest fan manufacturing plant in the world at that time.

Samuel Davidson sets up business in Belfast, UK

Negotiations with A/B Ljungströms Angeturbin (ALA) result in the formation of a joint venture company – Howden Ljungström Preheaters (Land) Limited based in Glasgow and Wellsville to develop and manufacture the rotary air preheater.

Air Preheaters being assembled1931
Holdings in the Howden-Ljungstrom joint ventures are exchanged and James Howden & Company and the Ljungstrom Company take full control of the UK and the US organisations respectively.

The Joy Manufacturing Company enters the fan business by purchasing LADEL Mfg., a fan maker located in New Philadelphia, OH.

S T Westerholz forms the Nordisk Ventilator Company to produce the “Variax” variable pitch axial flow fan.

James Howden Australia Pty  Limited is formed.

James Howden & Company Africa (Pty) is formed.

James Howden and Company of Canada Limited is formed and located at Scarborough, Ontario.

Howden takes controlling stake in Holima Ingenieursbureau voor Warmte en Koudetechnick NV which designed and manufactured refrigeration installations.
Sir George Godfrey & Partners is taken over by James Howden & Company to expand activities in the refrigeration and precision engineering fields.
Howden Group is formed as the holding company.
Howden acquires the fan business of Carter in UK.

Howden acquires Airscrew in UK.
At the ending of the agreement with Parsons, Howden becomes a manufacturing associate of Brown Boveri to manufacture steam turbines for the Canadian market.
James Howden America is formed in Hartford, Connecticut, after the acquisition of Aetna Special Manufacturing Corp.

Howden Journal 19871988
Howden acquires Davidson & Co., which includes Berry, Sturtevant, American Blower, Ventilateurs Neu, Airtech.

Howden acquires Ventilatoren Stork Hengelo.

Howden acquires Turbowerke Meissen in Germany.

Howden acquires the Novenco (formerly Nordisk Ventolator Co.) which includes Sheldon, Engart, Aerex, and Voith Novenco.

Howden acquires The Buffalo Forge Fan Co and Canadian Blowers.

Howden acquires Burton Corblin®, manufacturers of piston and diaphragm compressors.

Howden acquires Joy Green Fans.
Howden acquires Tallares Sanchez Luengo (TSL).

Howden acquires Bryan Donkin Blowers.
Charter plc acquires Howden Group plc.

Carrier Corporation acquires a majority stake in Howden Compressors. Howden Process Compressors, a wholly owned Howden subsidiary is formed to supply package compressor sets.
Howden re-acquires from Carrier Corporation the remaining 51% shareholding in Howden Compressors Ltd, and its affiliated sales company, that it had sold to Carrier in 1998.

Howden Russia is established and opens in Moscow.

Howden India is established, and opens in Delhi in 2008.

Howden acquires Aeolus Industra e Comercio Ltd, a leading Brazilian designer and manufacturer of fans.

Howden Water Technology A/S established in Birkerød, Denmark.
Howden Middle East is established in Dubai.

AustCold Refrigeration Pty Ltd. in NSW, Australia is acquired by Howden.

Howden acquires Thomassen Compression Systems, a leading manufacturer of reciprocating compressors.

Colfax Corporation acquires Howden Group plc.

Howden acquires ČKD Kompresory, a leading supplier of multi-stage centrifugal compressors to the oil and gas, petrochemical, power and steel industries based in Prague and Fläkt Woods GII Division becomes part of the Howden organisation.


This book -  Douglas Hume - A Personal Story : The Howden Heritage - is Douglas Hume’s personal story, as told to his brother David H. Hume, and is reproduced with the kind permission of David H. Hume. Any views represented in the book are the author's personal views.



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