The Art Department – history

A brief history of the building
The Art Department site is the former Paisley headquarters of the UK’s Co-operative Wholesale Society and in most recent times the property was known as Allders.


The property is situated over four buildings which were unified in major rebuilding works when the Paisley Centre shopping complex was created in the mid-1990s. The façades of the four buildings are all that remains of what was once a huge property empire created by the Paisley Co-operative & Manufacturing Society Ltd, originally established by hand-loom weavers in 1862. PCMS was later absorbed into the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society and later the UK’s CWS Ltd known as the Co-op.


The complex of buildings at Causeyside Street, were built over four decades. The 1890’s building was the first larger scale property to be bought by the growing society. It was a former residential property and was redeveloped by Bruce & Hay architectural practice and completed in 1892 for PCMS. Bruce & Hay are particularly known for the very grand Scottish Wholesale Co-operative buildings in Morrison Street, Glasgow. The 1892 PCMS store housed millinery, shawls, haberdashery and the finest linens. The façade of this building still stands and is the first set of windows from what is now No2. Causeyside Street.


The 1913 building was a rather grander creation built over four floors in the contemporary art deco style. It now forms the entrance way to the shopping centre mall. This 1913 building was built by well-known architects firm Peddie & Kinnear and designed by Charles Davidson. An assistant to Peddie & Kinnear in Edinburgh, he moved to Paisley in 1875 to work on their National Bank and Bank of Scotland commissions in St Mirren Street. Davidson commenced independent practice c.1880. One of his best known buildings is the Paisley Daily Express building (1894).

The warehouse that was sandwiched between the 1890’s building and the 1913 building came down in the early 1930s and was replaced by a grand beaux arts style building, designed by architect Bailie Hamilton Neil, dated 1932. Neil was a graduate of the Paisley School of Design and Paisley Technical College, the Glasgow & West of Scotland Technical College, and Glasgow School of Art. He was well known for being a councillor, magistrate, and a mason. He also had business interests in several cinema chains and designed a few huge art deco cinemas.


His buildings had always been very showy, and the 1932 Co-op building combined their imagery, two hands clasping, linen flax bundles and floral garlands with some generalised art deco motifs, greco-egyptian lotus leaves, and a touch of the war memorials in the Masonic style of the heads/garlands. Notably one face is smiling and one face frowning, reminiscent perhaps of the Greek muses of comedy and tragedy, sometimes known as Sock and Buskin or Thalia and Melpomene.


The entire site of the Paisley Shopping Centre will be re-developed over the next few years by Beyond Retail Property, offering a combination of health, well-being, retail, leisure and residential accommodation.