Hidden for years – photos of Manchester’s lost Paulden’s department store through the decades

These fascinating images unearthed in our archives show a lost Manchester department store that has been loved for decades.

An iconic part of the city center for generations, Paulden’s marked a turning point in the design of shops and buildings when it opened over a century ago.

With roots dating back to the 1860s, it offered a new and luxurious shopping experience for the people of Manchester and was the first in the UK to be fitted with electric lighting, escalators, elevators and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Read more: Invisible for decades – the pictures that will take you back in time in Stockport to the 70s

Radical-thinking store owners were also among the first to consider setting up a delivery service – using cars.

Here we take a brief look back at Paulden’s history in Manchester and a number of photos from our archive, Mirrorpix, which have not been seen in years.

According to the National Archives, in the 1860s William Paulden began trading in a store on Stretford Road, Manchester.

The owner was listed as a ‘grand clothier, silk merchant and chic storekeeper’, before the business later moved to a specially designed store on the corner of Stretford Road and Chatham Street in 1879.



The Rylands Building, Market Street. October 1, 1958

Sales were promoted by innovative window displays and in-store entertainment, seeing a three-piece band, model parades, and special events over Easter and Christmas – including a basement farm where the kids had to guess. the number of Easter eggs to win a puppy.

According to the National Archives, the staff uniform was said to be navy blue and yellow or navy blue and silver, but in the afternoon the staff changed to “evening dress.”

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Shoppers outside the Pauldens Department Store, Manchester.  Unknown date
Shoppers outside the Paulden Department Store. Unknown date

Beloved for generations, the department store is still remembered today for everything from selling furniture to its popular café.

The original store was on Cavendish Street and the site is now occupied by the Cambridge Hall of Residence at Manchester Metropolitan University.

He was damaged during the Manchester Blitz, but after his resurrection in the Ryland building, he became a direct rival to Lewis.

Paulden’s was taken over by Debenhams in the 1920s, but continued to trade under its original name until 1973.



Firefighters tackle the fire at the Pauldens department store in Manchester which erupted shortly before the store reopened following renovations on September 7, 1957
Firefighters are tackling the fire at Paulden’s department store in Manchester which erupted shortly before the store reopened following renovations. September 7, 1957

In 1957 Pauldens underwent a huge renovation but, a few days before it reopened, it was destroyed by fire.

The cause of the blaze was never identified, but Paulden began trading temporarily at an army barracks on Medlock Street.



Pauldens Department Store, Manchester.  Around 1958
Paulden Department Store, Manchester, circa 1958

In 1959 it reopened in the old Rylands warehouse on the corner of Market Street and Piccadilly Gardens.

These images, from our Mirrorpix archive, show the building’s life through the years, from the 50s Paulden to a renamed Debenhams in the 90s.



Bargain hunters who waited for the Debenhams store staff to open their hours handed them cards allowing them to buy what they had stood in line for.  December 28, 1977
Bargain hunters await opening hours at Debenhams. The store staff handed them cards allowing them to buy what they had stood in line for. December 28, 1977

A number of buyers can be seen eagerly lining up to enter, while other images show the historic site in all its glory.

Debenhams, which had occupied the Grade II listed Rylands building since 1973, closed its flagship store after being taken into administration last year, putting 12,000 jobs at risk across the UK.



Sunday shoppers in Debenhams, Market Street, Manchester.  Aug 28, 1995
Sunday shoppers in Debenhams, Market Street. Aug 28, 1995

This year, Manchester evening news Reported on major plans to redevelop the Rylands Building to provide a new, street-level shopping arcade, as well as several floors of new office space, have been touted by owners AM Alpha.

It would also mean that the Grade II listed monument on Market Street gets a much needed makeover aimed at restoring its Art Deco glory.

Do you remember Pauldens? Let us know in the comments section below.

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