Thomas Howell, a wealthy merchant of Welsh descent, died childless in 1537, leaving the bulk of his estate in trust to the Drapers’ Company (of which he was a member) to provide dowries each year for deserving orphan maidens.
Wise investment resulted in such an increase in the income from the estate that in 1852 an Act was passed to use it for the establishment of two schools for “orphan maidens” in Wales at Llandaff and Denbigh. The schools were built in 1858-9 and Howell’s School, Llandaff, opened on 1st August 1860. The principal architect was Decimus Burton but the design was completed by Herbert Williams, the Drapers’ Company surveyor.
The First Girls
Under Miss Emily Baldwin, the first Headmistress, or Chief Matron (1860-72), there were initially thirty orphans and thirty fee paying boarders, but from 1863, day girls were also admitted. For its day, the facilities and opportunities were outstanding and the school soon acquired an impressive reputation. Miss Maria Kendall (1880-1920) oversaw considerable additions to the original building, including laboratories, the Great Hall complete with Shakespearian murals, a Cookery School, art room and gymnasium.
In 1895 much control over the school passed from the Drapers’ Company to Glamorgan County Council. The era of the orphans ended but instead scholarships were awarded for deserving students of good academic ability. The Hywelian Guild for former students was established in 1906.
Parties, Prefects and Celebrations
Miss Eleanor Trotter (1920-37) initiated a major modernisation programme, including providing houses outside the main school building to accommodate the boarders. Organised clubs, prefects and a house system began. There were annual Open Days, League of Nations parties and Empire Day celebrations. The great fire of 1932 ravaged a substantial part of the school, but the reconstruction resulted in bright and airy classrooms, a splendid library and a new dining room. The swimming pool, the Hywelians’ memorial to Miss Kendall, was opened in 1937.