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Who Are Howden? The Past, Present & Future

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Who Are Howden? The Past, Present & Future


The Timeline of Ownership At Howden

We have recently announced that KPS Capital Partners have agreed our acquisition from Colfax. This upcoming change of ownership made us think about how Howden has grown and evolved with the support of our owners both past and present. 

Now a leading global player for industrial air and gas handling equipment, we want to explore the rich history of Howden’s ownership, and how we got to where we are today. 

Established over 160 years ago by James Howden, the company has passed from several hands but always remained true to our promise:

Our supportive people and our leading engineering combine to deliver the best long-term value for our customers.

No matter who the owner, Howden has become the very best in the field providing our customers with engineering expertise. Over the years Howden has acquired many of the world’s best-known technologies, companies, and brands and has innovated the world of engineering. Our past achievements still informing the way that we work today.

To explore this more we will look at the ownership of Howden across the years:

  • 1854 to 1997 -  Owned by James Howden & Co. - Howden Group
  • 1997 to 2012 - Owned by Charter Plc
  • 2012 to 2019 - Owned by Colfax Corporation
  • Expected change from end of 2019 - Owned by KPS Capital Partners

1800s: Howden Under Ownership of James Howden

The 1800s was a time of innovation and experimentation for both Howden and the industrial industries as a whole. 

The late 1800s was an era where inventors really began to identify and understand the unique disciplines of engineering. Advances were made across all processes, but most notably steel and petroleum which reshaped transportation, manufacturing and construction.

Howden In The 1800s

Founded in 1854 by James Howden in Glasgow, Scotland as a marine engineering firm, Howden designed and built steam boilers and engines

Howden then moved into power and other heavy process industries supplying industrial fans and rotary heat exchangers.

In the early years of Howden, James Howden pioneered a number of advances:

  • Patented the method of preheating combustion air.
  • Introduced a furnace mechanical draught system.
  • Patented the ‘Howden System of Forced Draught’ 

Other Influential Advances In The 1800s

BF Sturtevant Co 

  • Pioneered the use of mechanical draught fans for ventilation in the marine industry.
  • Built the worlds first commercially successful blower.
  • Built the largest fan manufacturing plant in the world at that time.

Bryan Dokin Co 

  • Pioneered the use of gas boosting.

Buffalo Forge Co 

Samuel Davidson 

  • Invents the forward bladed centrifugal fan - the ‘sirocco’ fan.


1900-1997: Howden Under Ownership of James Howden Cont’d

In the 20th century, engineering erupted. The forerunners in engineering in the late 1800s laid the foundations for the huge expansion seen in the 20th century.

Engineering made homes more comfortable and efficient through appliances such as aircon and refrigeration. It made food processing and water treatments cleaner and safer. It connected us through the telephone. It entertained us through the radio and TV. It gave us cars and roads to drive on. And engineering even took us to space.

Over the 20th century, industrial innovations continued to grow and expand, as did Howden as a company. Howden drastically increased international presence over this decade through acquisitions and other joint ventures, notably:

(1950) James Howden Australia Pty  Limited is formed.
(1952) James Howden & Company Africa (Pty) is formed.
(1956) James Howden and Company of Canada Limited is formed.
(1979) James Howden America is formed, after the acquisition of Aetna Special Manufacturing Corp.

(1961) Howden takes a controlling stake in Holima Ingenieursbureau voor Warmte en Koudetechnick NV.
(1968) James Howden & Company takes over Sir George Godfrey & Partners

(1970) Howden Group is formed as the holding company.

(1977) At the end of the agreement with Parsons, Howden becomes a manufacturing associate of Brown Boveri to manufacture steam turbines for the Canadian market.
(1994) Howden Hua is established in China.

Timeline 1854 - 1997

Howden acquired a substantial portfolio of industry-leading products through strategic acquisitions; Carter, Airscrew, Stork, Canadian Blower, Ventilateurs Neu, American Blower, Berry, Westinghouse, Davidson ‘Sirocco’, Sturtevant, Turbowerke Meissen, Buffalo Forge, Voith Novenco, Aerex, Engart, Sheldon, Nordisk Ventilator, Variax, KWCA/ Howden Ventiladores, Burton Corbin, Joy Green, and Bryan Donkin.

Important Advances During the 1900s

The innovations within the industrial industry continued through the 20th century. Most notably:


  • Supplied the largest turbo-generator running in the UK.
  • Licenced the screw compressor from SRM in Sweden - the first company to commercialise this technology.
  • Supplied the main blowers for the world's first two large nuclear reactors at Windscale, UK.
  • Received the order for the world's first submerged gas circulators.
  • Howden Canada supplied the turbo-generators to the world's first large CANDU nuclear power station.
  • Supplied the first wind turbine in the utility industry in the United Kingdom.
  • Designed and launched an ultra-low noise cooling fan.

Buffalo Forge

  • Published the first edition of Fan Engineering - the industry-standard reference work on air and gas movement.

Henri Corblin

  • Invented the metal diaphragm compressor.

BF Sturtevant

  • Developed the backward-inclined bladed centrifugal fan.


  • Patented the Davidson mechanical dust collector.


  • Developed the aerofoil bladed centrifugal fan.


  • Supplied the world’s first variable pitch axial flow fan in the power generation industry.


1997-2012 - Howden Under Ownership of Charter Plc

In 1997 Howden is acquired by Charter Plc and continue their global presence by establishing in both Russia and India, and starting a joint venture with Larsen & Toubro in the latter. 

timeline 2008-2011

Howden also acquires more companies to grow the portfolio of brands; Aeolus (Brazil), AustCold, and Thomassen Compression Systems.

Howden continued to innovate and make waves in the industrial sector throughout this ownership. Most notably:

  • The introduction of large centrifugal fan impellers which are tolerant of dynamic excitation under off-load duties.
  • Designed large centrifugal booster fans with rotors designed to run above their critical speeds.
  • Developed a fully submerged gas circulator running on magnetic bearings for handling helium as a nuclear reactor core coolant.
  • Introduced a super-high pressure blading for modern single and two-stage axial fans.


2012-2019 - Howden Under Ownership of Colfax

In 2012 Colfax Corporation acquires Howden. 

Under this ownership, Howden continues its impressive strategy of acquiring brands and its commitment to providing full support for every brand already required.

Howden timeline 2012 - 2019

Under the ownership of Colfax, Howden acquires; Covent Fans, TLT-Babcock, Alphair, CKD Kompressory, Roots Blowers, Simsmart Technologies, Siemens Turbo Equipment, Chasm Consulting (Developers of VentSim), ACI, ACH Equipos.

Under Colfax, Howden has taken the lead in the new industrial revolution; Industry 4.0. Our Industrial Internet of Things product, Uptime, introduces exciting new technology such as the Howden Digital Twin, and was built in partnership with Microsoft and PTC. 

The Future with KPS Partners

The future of engineering is bright. With aims to design new and more powerful ways of understanding information, advancing technologies, and developing a safe and efficient world.

In agreeing to acquire Howdenr, KPS is committed to accelerating Howden’s growth both organically and through acquisition. With a long and successful history of enabling businesses like Howden to thrive and grow as independent companies, we are excited about what the future holds.

Howden enjoys a leading market position, scale, a global manufacturing footprint, world-class design and engineering capabilities, and a portfolio of industry-leading products. We intend to capitalize on the Company’s many attractive growth opportunities, including strategic acquisitions, and to support its already substantial investment in research and development, technology and new product development.
Raquel Palmer, Co-Managing Partner of KPS

No matter who backs us, Howden revolves around you. Our supportive people and our leading engineering combine to deliver the best long-term value for our customers. We aim to be the world's leading application engineer providing lifetime solutions in air and gas handling.


Want to find out more about what we do at Howden and what we can do for you? Check Out Our Case Studies.


Article Date

Friday, 30 August 2019



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