Born in Yorkshire, the son of an Anglican clergyman. He was raised and schooled in Australia where he also received his architectural training. He emigrated in 1892 to Johannesburg, South Africa, where he had some success in local competitions. In 1869 he was in partnership with Albert Henry CHANDLER (cf. HOWDEN & CHANDLER). In 1904 Robert HOWDEN entered into partnership with Arthur James STEWART, then newly emigrated to South Africa, in Johannesburg (cf HOWDEN & STEWART) although his previous connection with Stewart is unclear. With A J STEWART he was successful in a number of competitions, the first being that for St George's Presbyterian Church, Johannesburg in 1904. Their most prestigious win, however, was the competition for the Transvaal University College, Johannesburg (1907).
He was tireless in his promotion of the architectural profession. He, with Walter REID, ensured that the Architects' Private Act was gazetted and passed by the then Transvaal Colonial Government in 1909. He was elected President of the Association of Transvaal Architects in 1911. He was Chairman of the Council that launched the monthly journal African Architect, of which he was Editor. He researched the elimination of reflection from glassed pictures in art galleries, which led to his election to the Royal Society of Arts and his appointment, with Herbert BAKER, for the supervising of the construction of the National Art Gallery in Joubert Park.
He was President-in-Chief of the Institute of South African Architects from 1928 to 1930. In 1935 he sponsored the Robert Howden Medal of which Frederick POWERS was the first winner. In 1938 he was associate architect with JamesMARSHALL for the design of the Mental Hospital at Krugersdorp for the DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS.
[Entry extracted and expanded from the Dictionary of Scottish Architects and Walker, 2013: 49-50.]
All truncated references not fully cited in 'References' are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.