A colourised version of the R.S. Howard & Sons Ltd logo, the original appeared in Parkes Champion Post Wednesday October 18, 1967 p. 7. After the buyout from Burns Philp, the Howards’ logo added a thistle and underneath their tagline “The Friendly Store” was written “A Burns Philp Store”
One of the many books in Parkes Library’s Family & Local History Resource room is called Honour The Pioneers. That could be the motto historyparkes lives by, with each post honouring those who have made the Parkes Shire what it is today. One of the more famous and influential families are the Howards. Robert Stephen Howard opened a hardware store in 1871, which grew into R. S. Howard & Sons Ltd – a department store that served Parkes, Peak Hill and Trundle, lasting almost 100 years before being bought out by Burns Philp & Company Ltd in 1967. historyparkes recently recorded a conversation with R.S. Howard’s great-grandson, John Howard, when he came to Parkes for a visit. This blog post will explore the Howards, their stores and the legacy on the Parkes Shire and beyond.
Family crests of the Howard Family through the years. (Left) Coat of arms of the Earl of Effingham, which was created in 1837 for Kenneth Howard, 11th Baron Howard of Effingham, named after the village of Effingham where the family manor was. Effingham is in the Borough of Guildford in county Surrey. The motto in Latin Virtus Mille Scuta translates to “The Power of a Thousand Shields”; (centre) The coat of arms for the modern Howard family drawn by Frank Stuart Howard in 1969 and featured on the order of service for the 150th Anniversary Service for the arrival of Robert Stephen and Maria Howard at Moreton Bay, Queensland 28 November 1862 (supplied by John Howard) the motto in Latin Virtus Aeterna Est is “Power Forever”; and (right) the coat of arms of Sir William Howard, 1st Baron Howard of Effingham, KG. Sources: Wikipedia and John Howard’s personal collection.
John Howard discusses his early memories of Parkes, including the time he discovered “gold” with cousin Warwick Howard.
Robert Stephen Howard
A photograph of Robert Stephen Howard and his wife Maria nee Wallis in 1862 before they embarked to Australia. They landed at Moreton Bay, Queensland on November 28, 1862. Source: John Howard personal photograph collection
Robert Stephen Howard was born September 5, 1837 at a property called “Windridge” in St Albans, Hertfordshire to James Howard and Ann Maria née Sparks. Maria Wallis, the daughter of Edmund Vincent Wallis and Mary Ann née Lamb, was born August 18, 1839 at Wellingborough, Northants. Robert and Maria were married on February 11, 1862 in Kempston, Bedfordshire, and eight months later landed in Moreton Bay, Queensland. The Howard family moved to Sydney, where in 1868 Owen James Howard was born. By 1871 the Howard family were in Bushmans (later to be called Parkes) where the birth of a “…multi-departmental emporium…” began.
Ian Chambers recorded that “The retailing store of R S Howard & Sons was destined to grow from this single shop (established in 1871 as Wallis & Howard) to a multi-departmental emporium, the equal of any in country NSW, owned and operated by four generations of the Howard family. Owen J Howard, Robert Stephen Howard and S W Howard pose with a customer in this photograph taken about 1885” Source: Chambers, Ian (1988) p.32
R.S. Howard & Sons would soon be the department store of the Parkes district, but it began as Wallis & Howard selling hardware products. The Howard home took on the name “Windridge” the same name as the house he was born into. Robert Stephen Howard suffered throat cancer and passed away on September 26, 1899. He was 62 years of age. R.S. Howard was born into and died in a house called “Windridge” but on two different continents.
Initial research seemed to suggest that the passing of R.S. Howard only afforded a very brief obituary on page 8, coupled with an advertisement for the store’s brown felt hats. However a more detailed obituary appeared later in the same newspaper (see below) Source: The Western Champion Friday September 29, 1899 p.8
A pillar of the community passes away. With “unfeigned regret” the local newspaper reports on the death of “our esteemed townsman”. R.S. Howard passed away in the family home of “Windridge” in Church Street. Leaving a legacy beyond his business, he was known for his vision, industry and generosity. Source: The Western Champion Friday September 29, 1899 p.11
Photograph of O.J. Howard during his presidency of the Country Traders’ Association which he also founded. Source: John Howard personal photograph collection
Owen James Howard was born in 1868 in Sydney. While his father may have established R.S. Howard & Sons Ltd, it was O.J. Howard who expanded the business to including stores in Parkes, Peak Hill and Trundle.
Ian Chambers noted that this photograph is of Dayspring Mine at Currajong (now called Parkes) in 1890. Owner Owen J Howard is sitting down at left with some of the miners (names unknown). This photograph shows in detail the above-ground methods employed in operating a substantial mine at that time, with good examples of the bush carpenter’s trade. In the background the whim, or vertical capstan-like drum, is turned by the horse harnessed to the whim-pole. Wound around the drum is a cable which extends across to a pulley positioned above the mine and then down the shaft. By reversing the direction of the horses’s circular path, the whim is thus used to raise or lower workmen, equipment and wash-dirt or ore. Photo by Harry McDade of Parkes. Source: Ian Chambers (1988) p.36
Before he became involved in the family business, Owen was the Mine Manager of Dayspring mine. Owen possessed an acute business mind, but similar to his father, was not afraid to show generosity. He possessed a similar work ethic too, presiding as chairman of the directors of the family firm til his death. In addition he was a member of the Parkes Show society, president of the Band Board, and president and treasurer of the Parkes Hospital Board.
John Howard recalls his grandfather’s business acumen, generosity and sharp mind.
Balmoral, built by William Henry Millwood Haselhurst, was purchased by O.J. Howard in late April 1903. John’s father, Frank, was born in this house. Source: John Howard personal photograph collection
Owen became an Alderman in 1900, serving for six years initially. He was re-elected to Parkes Municipal Council in 1914 and served as Mayor from April 1917 until June 25, 1918. Owen married Bathurst-born Blanche Anderson Jeffries in 1896 at Parkes. Just before the First World War ended, Owen moved his family – wife, Blanche; three children Edmund Frank Howard (1898-1964), Kathleen Mary Hamilton (1899-1977) and Harold Esmond Howard (1904-1977) to a new home in 3 Osborne Road, Manly. The family home was called “Parkhurst” with grandson John Howard explaining that this was a combination of the two home towns of Owen and Blanche, Parkes and Bathurst. The family previously lived in “Balmoral” in Hill Street, Parkes – Owen purchasing the home from the Haselhursts.
John Howard discusses the variety of merchandise in a Howard’s store and the perils of window displays.
This photograph highlights the huge size and variety contained with Howards stores. The photograph is taken in 1924 and also is a great record of 1920s vehicles – one of which is a Howards delivery truck. Source: Chambers, Ian (1988) p.163
John Howard remembers some of the other stores from Parkes’ past, including a serendipitous encounter with the Smiles family.
This photograph from Ian Chambers’ book is the one that John Howard remembers with Wally Smiles being the hairdresser adjacent to Howards stores. The photograph documents a fundraising endeavour during First World War. This rally was held in the Square (where Henry Parkes’ statue is located) on Saturday 5th October 1918. Source: Chambers, Ian (1988) p.124
Former Parkes Champion Post editor, Luke Merriman, published a series on the Mayors of Parkes. Source: Parkes Champion Post Monday, May 16, 2011 p.7
An advertisement for R.S. Howard & Sons Ltd recommending farming equipment to Trundle district. Source: The Trundle Star Friday June 11, 1937 p.7
This photograph shows Howards in the 1950s. Source: John Howard personal photograph collection (circa 1950s).
A newspaper advertisement for the Howards store in Peak Hill. Amongst the varied products on offer are tins of Rosella Baked Beans or Spaghetti for 16 cents; a bag of Granny Smith apples for 50c and 7 lbs (3.18kg) potatoes for 24c. Source: Peak Hill & District Times Thursday, April 28, 1966 p.2
This whole page newspaper advertisement for Howard’s store in Peak Hill highlights the diverse range of products available. As well as groceries, customers could also purchase blinds and awnings. Source: Peak Hill & District Times Thursday, February 16, 1967 p.3
When R.S. Howard & Sons Ltd was bought out by Burns Philp & Co it was front page news of local newspapers. While also reporting that the oldest district business was changing hands, there are also mentions for long term employees. Source: Peak Hill & District Times Thursday, October 19, 1967 p.1
This excerpt from a whole page article details the high esteem that Parkes Methodist Church – and the community at large – held Owen and his wife in. Source: Western Champion Thursday April 5, 1917 p.13 To read the newspaper report in its entirety click here
This excerpt from O.J. Howard’s obituary highlights a life well-lived. Source: The Sydney Morning Herald Monday, June 12, 1950 p.4 To read the article in its entirety, click here
While Thomas “Tom” Howard would eventually become involved in the family business, his first vocation was as a school teacher.
An extract from a newspaper report on Sir Henry Parkes’ second visit to Parkes. Thomas Howard was teacher at Parkes Public School and he assembled the children during the Premier’s visit. This visit included Sir Henry Parkes presenting to the town the marble statue. Source: The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser Saturday July 30, 1887 p.260 To read the article in its entirety click here
Thomas married Florence Hellen Fraser (1867-1915) in 1893 at Forbes. Florence was the daughter of James and Emma Fraser. Thomas and Florence had only one child, a daughter who was called Effingham, after the English village that the Howard family came from. Effingham Muriel Howard, known by all as “Effie” married Norman James Clive Southwell.
Former Parkes Champion Post editor, Luke Merriman, published a series on the Mayors of Parkes. Source: Parkes Champion Post Monday, June 20, 2011 p.6
Thomas left teaching in July 1910 to take over the Peak Hill Howard’s store. When his first wife passed away tragically on May 31, 1915, Thomas remarried, this time to Florence Mary Thurlow (1871-1949) in Manly. “Judy”, as everyone knew her as, had been born in Newcastle. With his new wife, Thomas embarked on a world tour from January 20, 1920 to January 21, 1921. The places visited by the couple included Samoa, Honolulu, the United States, Panama Canal, Peru, Chile, Argentina, England, Canary Islands, Norway, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Scotland and Wales. One of the lasting impressions from their trip was the high esteem that Australians were held in – particularly in Belgium and France.
Upon returning to Parkes, Thomas sought a seat on Parkes Municipal Council. He served as Alderman for three years and as Mayor for one year. An interesting anecdote that Luke Merriman uncovered was that Thomas suffered an unusual injury. While walking home from the Sunday night service at the Methodist Church (now Parkes Uniting Church) he tripped over a tree trunk while searching his pockets for a match to light his pipe. Thomas’ pipe was already in his mouth as he fell, which drove it into his throat. Just eight days before the mayoral election, Thomas could neither eat or speak. On December 8 he won the mayoral election against Edmund Carncross Best by six votes to three. Part of his mayoral duties were to official switch on the electricity supply for Parkes. Due to his injury, the mayoress, “Judy” Howard flicked the switch at 8pm on December 17, 1924 in front of 1,500 people.
Newspaper report on Parkes ex-pats who gather on the Central Coast to reminisce. Source: Parkes Champion Post Wednesday, January 13, 2010 p.7
John’s first cousin, Warwick Howard, was the last of the Howards to live in Parkes and run the family department store. Warwick passed away December 18, 2017 and his obituary describes the many ways he was a pillar of the community. Source: Parkes Champion Post Friday, January 12, 2018 p.20
Part of a personal collection, this knife was made in Sheffield, England specifically for R.S. Howard & Sons Ltd. Source: Brett Miller personal photograph collection posted on Facebook page Parkes In Photos Of Years Gone Past. Used with permission
Close up photograph that is part of a personal collection, this knife was made in Sheffield, England specifically for R.S. Howard & Sons Ltd. Source: Brett Miller personal photograph collection posted on Facebook page Parkes In Photos Of Years Gone Past. Used with permission
Parkes Shire Library would like to thank the following people and organisations for their assistance with this blog post:
If you have stories of the Howard family and/or the Howards stores that you are willing to share please contact Parkes Shire Library via firstname.lastname@example.org so that they can be shared and kept for posterity on this blog. Alternatively you may leave comments on this page.
Owen James Howard, after his re-election as president of the Country Traders’ Association [Personal photograph, donated to Parkes Shire Library by John Howard]. (date unknown).
Plate 24[Photograph found in Parkes: A Photographic History]. (1988). In I. Chambers (Ed.), Parkes: A Photographic History (p. 36). Parkes, NSW: Ian Chambers.
I. THE undersigned, hereby make application to register The Dayspring Gold-mining Company as a No-Liability Mining (1895, February 12). New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW : 1832 – 1900), p. 968. Retrieved June 26, 2019, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article222221569
John Howard (June 20, 2019) John Howard on the Howard Family [Personal Interview]. Stored in Parkes Shire Library Family & Local History Resource Room
Unknown (2010). Ex-Parkes residents Christmas gathering [Photograph found in Parkes Champion Post, Parkes]. In Parkes Champion Post (Wednesday January 13, 2010, p. 7). Parkes, NSW: Parkes Champion Post.
David Howard (January 12, 2018). Obituary. Parkes Champion Post, p. 20.