Topic: Henry Herbert Howden

Topic type:

Jeweller and Watchmaker

Henry Herbert HowdenHH Howden

Henry Herbert Howden was born in Auckland in 1868. His father, James Howden, was a jeweller and watchmaker who had a store on Shortland Street. In 1888 Howden junior moved to Hamilton and in January 1889 set up his own jewellery and watchmaking business. It was in a tiny store on Victoria Street, just south of Hood Street (about where Para Rubber is as of 2013). The image below shows the date of establishment as January 1888. This has been inked into the negative and is incorrect. The clock above the door - possibly the very same clock that is above the door to 179 Victoria Street - was illuminated at night. Howden's clock was unfavourably compared, by the Waikato Times, to the first official town clock, which was put up on the Hamilton Public Library building one month later. Two years later Howden had the last laugh when the official town clock broke down and he pronounced it beyond repair. He offered the Council a new clock - at mates rates - but they declined.

H Howden Watchmaker & Jeweller c. 1890Howden in the doorway of his first store opened January 1889

In 1892 Howden moved  himself, his business and his clock, to premises in a new two storey building that he had built further up Victoria Street. The building was designed by Mr TH White, architect, and built by Pettigrew and Co. of Ngaruawahia. Mr Mallindine of Ngaruawahia was responsible for the store's internal fittings and decorations. Mr Mallindine was notable for the work he did for Mr Stewart Dawson and Co.'s establishment in Auckland. Mr AWG Le Quesne, a chemist, set up shop in the southern most store of Howden's Buildings. (2) The buildings appear to have lasted until around 1970 when they made way for the Manchester Unity building. 

Howden's Buildings c.1892

Howden operated out of the above until 1902 when he moved to another new building just a few metres north. Paul's Book Arcade moved into his old shop. The new building, also bankrolled by Howden, was designed by architect Fred Ernest Smith, reportedly Hamilton's first full time architect. It's style is described as Edwardian neo-classical.

Howdens Jewellers building 2013Scotts Epicurean cafe in the old Howden Jewellers building

In 1987 the building faced demolition by developers who had plans for the whole block bounded by Victoria, Hood, Alexandra and Collingwood Streets, and the tenants of 15 years, CF McCarthy Jewellers, received an eviction notice. This was despite the Howden building being considered by the Historic Places Trust "to be of immense historic value to Hamilton and New Zealand culture", and a public petition signed by thousands. In the end, the developers plans were thwarted by small property owners and so the building has lived to see many more days.

Also of great value and importance were the original interior and fittings which had been retained by the owners of CF McCarthy. These included the shop cabinets which were handmade and carved from some type of Australian blackwood. Ten years after the threat of demolition, the owners of CF McCarthy sold these cabinets, as well as a number of clocks, including a rare deadbeat escapement pendulum clock to the Museum of New Zealand in Wellington.  

Howden's Legacy

Henry Herbert Howden died aged 77 in 1945 and his son Leslie Douglas Howden took over the business. HH's legacy was more than jewellery, watchmaking, and buildings. He served on the Hamilton Borough Council for 20 years, first from November 1903 to May 1905, and then from May 1913 to April 1920. He also served on the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and was briefly president in 1911. He was chairman of the Hamilton Fire Board for 16 months from February 1920.  According to his obituary in the Waikato Times he was a life member of the Hamiton Bowling Club and "his donation of trophies probably constituted a Waikato record in number and value." And, of course, he has a Hamilton street named after him - Howden Road in Fairfield.

If you would like to see better versions of any of the photos above, or those in the Related Items box below, please do not hesitate to come to Level 3 of Garden Place Library, or contact


Elliot, S., "Old timers to go?" Hamilton Press 8 October 1986, p. 1 & 12

"Eviction for shop owners", Hamilton Press 4 March 1987, p. 1

Hamilton Fire Brigade golden jubilee programme 1954

"Historic cabinets bound for museum" Waikato Times 28 January 1997, p. 2

"Museum buys 'priceless' cabinets" Waikato Times 7 May 1997 p. 20

"Obituary : Mr H. H. Howden", Waikato Times 27 September 1945, p. 4

"Town improvements : Howden's buildings" Waikato Times 13 August 1892, p. 2

"Tradition extends to a third generation" Waikato Times 19 September 1966 p. 21

Wellwood, E., "Battle" Waikato Times 1 July 1999, p. 13


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Henry Herbert Howden

First Names:Henry Herbert
Last Name:Howden