Lee, Howl & Company Limited

It began in the latter part of the 1870s when Jonathan Edwards Howl, owner of Tibbington Brick Works at Princess End planned to start an engineering business at Tipton. He lived with his wife and ten children at The Quarries, Upper Gornal. His plans came to an untimely end because of his premature death in 1878. 

His eldest son, Edmund Howl, a 28 years old mechanical and mining engineer, who was also involved at the brickworks, continued to make his father’s plans a reality and formed a partnership with family friend, William Lee, who was an experienced businessman. The other partners were Thomas Henry Ward, a design and construction engineer and William Lee’s grandfather; and Oliver Howl, Edmund’s youngest brother, who 21 years old and a civil engineer.

The firm became Lee, Howl, Ward, and Howl, which was founded in 1880, with William Lee as Company Chairman. They operated as general hydraulic engineers, but soon designed and began to manufacture water pumps which were urgently needed to help with the severe drainage problems in local coal mines. On the 30th June, 1887, Thomas Henry Ward retired and the business became Lee, Howl and Company. William Lee remained as Company Chairman, and Edmund and Oliver Howl were Directors.

By 1890 the product range included a large range of pumps. There were duplex steam pumps, vertical and horizontal pumps for draining mines, and for use in gas works, water works, and for drawing water from deep wells. The firm also produced couplings and drawbars for railways and tramways, patented an economical, fuel efficient draught furnace, and built the first portable electricity generator for a company in Birmingham. Edmund Howl was also Manager of the South Staffordshire Mines Drainage Commission and Manager of the Mond Gas Works at Dudley Port.


The notice of the disbanding of Lee, Howl, Ward, and Howl.


The location of the factory.


From 1889.

The firm’s export market continued to grow. Furnaces and boilers were exported to Madras, steam pumps were sent to coal mines in Hyderabad and to Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Holland, Malaya, Portugal, South Africa, and Spain. Vices and hoists were sent  to China, and a large number of pony-operated deep well pumps went to Chile.

A new foundry was built in 1899 and Clifford Howl joined the firm in 1906. William Lee died 1908 and was replaced as Managing Director by Oliver Howl.

During the First World War the company produced armaments including large shells and mine sinkers, as well as continuing to manufacture a range of pumps. The factory was extended and work started on a new canteen. Just before the outbreak of war, William Lee died and his nephew joined the firm to look after the family’s interests. During the war Clifford Howl joined the armed forces and became a Major. On his return in January 1919, he became head of the hand pump department.

In 1923 Ralph Howl, a chartered accountant, joined the firm as Assistant Company Secretary. He became a Director in 1925, at a time when an extended range of pumps was introduced, including centrifugal pumps. Sales were high and turnover and profits greatly increased.

In 1929 a new office block was built, but the world-wide depression led to a fall in sales and a shortage of work. In order to boost sales the company extended the project range in 1931 and purchased the drawings and manufacturing rights for an American vertical spindle borehole pump. The first ones produced were sold to Russia in 1932.

Edmond Howl died in December 1934 and was replaced as Chairman by E. W. Bache, a Director of George Salter & Company of West Bromwich. Clifford Howl became Managing Director and Ralph Howl, Commercial Director. In 1938 a new hand pump shop was built along with a test bay for carrying out tests on working pumps.

During World War Two, semi-rotary stirrup pumps were produced for dealing with incendiary bombs, and a night shift was introduced in order to meet the production targets. By 1942 around 1,000 stirrup pumps were produced per week. The firm also manufactured hundreds of reciprocating borehole pumps for the Eighth Army in the desert. In 1943 E. W. Bache died and Clifford Howl became Company Chairman.


An advert from 1947.


An advert from 1947.


An advert from 1973.

In 1946 Ralph Howl became Company Secretary and profits soared as demand for the company’s products grew. The firm became a public company in 1949. Oliver Brian Howl, Clifford Howl’s son, joined the firm in 1947 and became a Director in 1956. He later became Assistant Managing Director, then Chairman in 1970 and Executive Chairman in July 1980. In May 1970 the company became a member of the Amalgamated Power Engineering Group, a British engineering holding company, created through the 1968 merger of W. H. Allen, Sons and Company, and Belliss and Morcom.

By 1961 there were around 390 employees, at a time when production was high, with a large number of exports, especially in 1978. In 1980 the firm was awarded the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement.

In 1981, Northern Engineering Industries plc, a British engineering firm based in Gosforth in Newcastle upon Tyne, acquired the Amalgamated Power Engineering Group.


An advert from 1980.


An advert from 1970.

In 2006 Amalgamated Power Engineering Group went into liquidation A notice in the Gazette on the 19th May, 2006 states that the following companies were placed into voluntary liquidation:

A.P.E. Crossley Limited
A.P.E. Lee, Howl Limited
Blackburn Engines Limited
BSTS Limited
I.V. Pressure Controllers Limited
International Research and Development Limited
Metropole Industries Limited
Spare IPG 13 Limited
Spare IPG 19 Limited


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