William Paulden began trading on Stretford Road in the 1860s. A trade directory from 1877 lists him as a General draper, silk mercer and fancy warehouseman, which signals the origin of many department stores in this period.
His shop was large even then, stretching from 118 to 124 Stretford Road, but a new building was erected in 1879 on the corner of Streford Road and Chatham Street. This shop was in the vanguard of new technology – with electric lights, lifts, escalators, plate glass windows and motorised delivery vehicles all being introduced over the succeeding decades.
Sales were promoted through innovative window displays and the provision of in-store entertainments, including a three-piece band. In the 1920s, Paulden’s was taken over by Debenhams, but continued to trade under its original name. As was typical of department stores in this period, there were mannequin parades and special events at Easter and Christmas, including a farm in the basement where children had to guess the number of Easter eggs to win a puppy.
The shop suffered bomb damage in World War Two, but remained trading on its original site until 1957 when a fire, which broke out during refurbishment, destroyed much of the building. After a short period trading in the barracks opposite, Paulden’s relocated to the city centre, occupying Ryland’s Warehouse on the corner of Market Street and Piccadilly Gardens where it faced Lewis’s on the opposite side of Market Street. It was renamed Debenhams in 1973.