The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Department stores

Debenhams – Manchester

Nominated by: C20
Region: North West
Former names: Rylands Building
Dates from: 1929-1932
Built for: Rylands & Sons
Architect: Harry S. Fairhurst
Listed: Grade II
Conservation Area: City of Manchester (Smithfield) Conservation Area

The Rylands Building is a landmark structure located between Market Street and Bridgewater Place in the city of Manchester. It was built in the early 20th century by the local architect Harry S. Fairhurst for Rylands & Sons. The building was designed to accommodate independent shops on the ground floor, as well as Rylands offices, showrooms and warehouses, and flexible areas for staff meetings, dining and social functions. It was built in a cutting-edge Art Deco style and bears the name ‘RYLANDS’ for all to see. The listing entry describes it as ‘One of the last and biggest textile warehouses built in the city.’ The building is well documented in the work of the acclaimed Stretford-born artist L.S. Lowry. 

The Rylands building was built in three phases between 1929 and 1932. It is constructed on seven storeys and eighteen bays from a steel frame with Portland stone cladding and has a flat concealed roof. It features a grid-like elevation with six-paned windows, chamfered pilasters and enriched panels, and distinctive canted corner turrets with four storey tall windows, topped by shallow arcaded domed roofs. The interior was altered in the 1950s, 60s and 70s when it was occupied by Pauldens department store and subsequently Debenhams. 

An application was submitted to alter and extend the Grade II building (ref: 127882/LO/2020). The applicants proposed to erect a substantial rooftop extension; insert a central atrium; remove the original Crittall windows on the first to sixth floors and their replacement with like-for-like Crittall windows painted a dark bronze colour to imitate their original appearance; and carry out a conservation-led approach to 7th floor including the retention and restoration of the 1930s windows, plasterwork, wood panelling and fittings. The C20 Society raised concerns about the substantial size of the proposed rooftop extension and its scale was subsequently reduced. Manchester City Council have now approved the application. (last update: August 2021)

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