A substantial former office/corporate headquarters building with flanking wings and pavilions that was built 1962-64 in a historicist classical Renaissance style. It is two-storeys and rectangular on plan with an attic and central cupola. It was built as the headquarters of Chivas Brothers (blended whisky manufacturers) and was designed by the architectural practice of Lothian Barclay Jarvis. The building is faced in rock-faced rubble with dressings and decorative details in ashlar sandstone, including an oversized Ionic portico. It is currently vacant (2022) but was designed to house many administrative functions and was the main frontage to a 14-acre warehouse and bottling site (demolished in 2021). It is located to the north of Paisley on the west side of Renfrew Road (A741), a main road leading into the town centre.
The main (east) elevation comprises nine bays symmetrically arranged, with projecting end bays and a three-bay pedimented portico to the centre topped by three large stone urns. A carved panel to the tympanum shows a man on horseback (Robert the Bruce) flanked by spears, and a Gaelic inscription: 'CHIVAS / BHO 1801 / TREIBHIREAS BUNAITEACHD' (which translates to 'Chivas, since 1801, Fidelity Stability'). The round-headed entrance opening has an oversized portico, with a semi-circular pediment and entablature carried on a pair of fluted Ionic columns.
The rear (west) elevation is 11 bays to the first floor, with roughcast walls and ashlar dressings. The entire ground floor is abutted by a projecting single-storey, flat-roofed block with skylights. The former adjoining bottling plant/warehouse to the west was demolished in 2021. The side elevations (north and south) are five bays, abutted by single-storey, flat-roofed wings with parapeted eaves and skylights. Each wing has three round-headed openings with projecting keystones, oversized ball finials to the parapet, glazed timber doors with matching side lights and spoked fanlights. Higher single-storey, three-bay pavilions abut to the north and south.
The roofs are slated and piended with a flat top, and piended dormers to the main block. There are ashlar sandstone base courses, moulded eaves courses, and channelled piers to each corner. The window openings have raised and moulded architraves, with a projecting motif of three keystones and a relieving rubble arch on the ground floor openings. The windows are largely multi-paned timber sash and case, with a six-over-nine glazing pattern and three-over-six to the attic. The windows to the cupola and attic on the rear elevation are uPVC replacements.
The interior was seen in 2022 and is excluded from the listing. The decorative treatment of the principal rooms has some good detailing in a traditional style, particularly the main stair hall. The decorative treatment of the principal rooms has some good traditional detailing, but on balance the interior is not of special interest for listing.
There are stone steps and a cobbled area to the main elevation, with further dwarf walls, steps and ramps to the north and south wings, with pairs of oversized ball finials. A low wall next to the gate lodge has lettering reading: 'CHIVAS BROTHERS'. The site is bounded to Renfrew Road by steel railings over a low masonry wall.
The distillation of whisky was legalised in Scotland in 1823 but was often harsh and unrefined, with little maturation. Chivas Brothers has its origins in a grocers in early 19th century Aberdeen, which was passed to two brothers, John and James Chivas in 1838. In 1843 they first received a Royal Warrant to supply the Royal Family with goods (Aberdeen Press and Journal, 1971, p. 12). They were among the first to master the art of blending whisky, creating high-quality blends that were consistently smooth and well matured. In 1909 the company introduced the world's first luxury blend, Chivas Regal, a 25-year-old blend that was specifically marketed at high-society in North America.
In 1949 Chivas Brothers was bought by the Canadian drinks company, Seagram Ltd., and in 1957 work began for a new bottling site and headquarters on a 14-acre site at Renfrew Road in Paisley. The construction was phased, with two 300ft long warehouses having been completed by September 1959, and two further warehouses were yet to be built (Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Chivas Regal). The remaining buildings, including the main headquarters building, were constructed between 1960 and 1964. The complex is first shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1963, with the headquarters building to the east of the site, adjoined to a bottling plant/warehouse to the rear and further detached warehouses to the west and north. Completed at a cost of £1.5m, the site was opened on 30 June 1964 and was believed to be the largest whisky plant in Scotland at that time (The Sphere).
The headquarters building was originally intended to look as if it had been built in 1801, when the company could trace its origins. However, as noted by Walker (1986: p.22) the original design was amended to reflect earlier Scottish country house architecture, after a model of Caroline Park House in Granton, which was built in the late 17th century and is listed at category A (LB28040), was met with approval by company executives in North America. Despite some initial misgivings about the suitability of the traditionalist style, the architects strove to "…make it the best modern Scottish old house and as authentic as we could get it." (Walker, 1986: p.22)
Prior to its construction, the site was briefly occupied by St Andrew's Works for paint varnish and enamel, with a cement works to the northern end (Ordnance Survey map of 1950, surveyed 1949). At some point during the late-20th century, an earlier villa known as 'Kersland' at 117 Renfrew Road became used as additional offices for the company. The villa dates from around 1870 and is first shown on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (revised 1895, published 1898). By 1963 it was no longer in domestic use and was noted as an occupational centre on the 1963 Ordnance Survey map. It was substantially extended in 1993 to create further office space for Chivas Brothers.
The headquarters housed many administrative functions and employed around 450 people, making it one of the largest employers in Paisley (Paisley's Whisky Industry, Chivas Brothers). The site was further expanded by 10 acres at some point in the later 20th century and in 1981 a new bottling hall (North Hall) was constructed. In 2001 Chivas Brothers was acquired by Pernod Ricard and by the early 21st century, some of the original warehouses had been removed, with various additions made to the remainder.
In 2020 the site was sold to Renfrewshire Council for redevelopment as a new school for Paisley Grammar, and the North Hall was sold to the Scottish Leather Group. Much of the site has now been demolished, with the exception of the former headquarters building, gate lodge, North Hall and Kersland building.
Statement of Special Interest
The former Chivas Brothers Headquarters Building, meets the criteria of special architectural or historic interest for the following reasons:
- For its classical revival design, which is unusual/rare for its mid-20th century date.
- For the quality of its overall design, composition, use of traditional materials and historicist decorative detailing.
- It remains largely unaltered, retaining much of its original character and fabric.
- Its setting has been partially altered but it remains a prominent local building situated on one of the main routes into Paisley.
- As the headquarters of one of the world's largest whisky brands, its elaborate, historicist design tells us about the importance of brand image within Scotland's whisky industry during the post-war period.
- For its social historical interest as one of the major employers within Paisley during the second half of the 20th century.
In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: the interior.
The building is a notable example of a large, post-war scheme that was purpose-built to look like an authentic old Scottish country house. It acted as the public face of the Chivas Brothers company, which was renowned as one of the world's leading producers of high-quality blended Scotch whisky. Its historicist design, use of traditional materials and its rich decorative treatment is highly unusual for a building of this mid-20th century date. Its design reflected the status of the company, and the brand image of heritage and luxury that it wished to market to the world.
Governed by proportion and symmetry, the overall design and composition is executed on an imposing-scale, with the large central block further aggrandised by the arrangement of side wings and pavilions. The final design is an elaborate, but well executed fabrication, which emulated Scottish country house architecture of the late 17th and 18th centuries, with some evidence of French Renaissance detailing. The long façade effectively concealed much of the bottling plant and warehouse buildings to the rear and gave a sense of historical grandeur to what was a newly constructed building and industrial site.
The design differed significantly from the International Style of the parent company's world-renowned glass skyscraper by the modernist architect, Mies van der Rohe, in New York (the Seagram Building). However, a traditionalist style had been applied to another one of their Scottish buildings, which had recently been completed – Tormore Distillery, listed at category B (LB337). This was built between 1958 and 1960 and was designed in a neo-Georgian style by the renowned English architect Sir Albert Richardson.
The continued use of traditionalist or revivalist styles was a small movement known as New Classicism, which developed during the mid 20th century as a reaction against the prevalence of the Modern Movement. It saw new buildings designed in classical, or other revivalist styles, often using local methods, traditional craftsmanship and materials. Raymond Erith was a leading exponent and, like Richardson, believed that classicism was a progressive architectural language that could be adapted to suit modern needs. Other key proponents included Quinlan Terry, Donald McMorran, and Walter Schomberg Scott.
The former headquarters in Paisley is set apart from the work of the traditionalist architects, as it is an academic recreation of a classical Renaissance style, applied as a shell to a modern building. This was to create a desired sense of heritage and prestige, rather than being a serious demonstration of how classicism could be reinterpreted to create a new modern architecture. Its unusual design is of definite architectural quality, showing careful composition with good use of traditional materials and a high level of historicist detailing across exterior and the key internal spaces. The building's academic revivalist style is highly unusual for its mid-20th century date.
The plan form and decorative treatment of the building's interior is effectively separated into two parts. This juxtaposition in both is unusual for a building of this date, but it is not considered to be of special interest in listing terms. The modern, open-plan areas to the rear are largely plain and functional, reflecting their use by large numbers of workers. The smaller-scale spaces to the front represent the client-facing parts of the building. The stair hall, ante room and board room are recreations of 19th century decorative schemes but using modern methods and materials. The decorative treatment of the principal rooms has some good traditional detailing, but on balance the interior is not of special interest for listing.
The architectural practice of Lothian Barclay Jarvis was based in Glasgow and was established in 1959 by William (Geoffrey) Jarvis and Stuart Lothian Barclay, from the office of James W Reid. In 1961 it become 'Lothian Barclay Jarvis and Boys', when John Boys was taken into partnership, and then the 'Boys Jarvis Partnership' when Lothian Barclay retired in 1970. The firm undertook a range of work, from domestic properties, schools, offices, churches, and industrial buildings, including a number of projects for Scottish distilleries. The Chivas Brothers site in Paisley was the practice's first commission. It was thought to be largely the work of Jarvis, who became known for his restoration projects, but is also believed to have had significant input from Samuel Bronfman, president of the Chivas Brothers' parent company, Distillers Corporation Seagram Ltd.
There have been some incremental changes to the fabric and areas of the internal layout, but the overall character of the original building remains substantially unchanged. On balance the level of authenticity and completeness of the building adds to its special interest under this heading.
The former headquarters is a landmark building that is prominent in its setting. The long principal elevation is set back from Renfrew Road, acting as a grand frontispiece that reflected the corporate identity of the company whilst screening much of the industrial buildings to the rear from public view.
The wider setting has been partially altered through a combination of commercial and industrial development to the west and north of the site, and by the construction of late-20th century housing to the east, across Renfrew Road. Development of the area has also seen the introduction of a large roundabout just outside the main gates to the site.
The immediate setting of the building has been substantially altered in recent years, primarily through the demolition of the former bottling plant and warehouse buildings, one of which formerly adjoined to the rear. This has had some impact on our understanding of how the wider industrial aspect of the site would have functioned but when viewed from Renfrew Road, the overall character is largely retained.
A number of original setting features remain, and these are largely in keeping with the grand, historicist style of the building. They are positioned towards the main elevation and include cobbled areas of paving, ashlar stone walls, gate piers, gates, gate lodge and boundary walls with railings. The retention of the earlier Kersland villa to the northeast of the site, along with a run of listed early 19th century villas (LB39096-LB39101) to the southeast on Renfrew Road, contributes to the historic setting of the former headquarters building.
Age and rarity
Corporate headquarters and offices built in the period after the Second World War can be found across Scotland and are not rare. However, buildings of this period that survive relatively unaltered and are notable or innovative examples of their type, will be considered for listing.
The former Chivas Brothers Headquarters is notable as a rare example for the period of a major building commission constructed in the classical tradition, as the prevailing trend in architecture was for modernist design.
The ethos behind many new classical examples from the post-war period, such as the work of Walter Schomberg Scott and Raymond Erith, was to show how classical or other revivalist styles could be adapted to create a new modern architecture that was based on traditional principals. Predominantly it was new houses, or additions to existing historic buildings or sites that were built in this style.
The former headquarters building differs from these other examples as it was designed for a private company and used an academic recreation of the classical style to create a desired effect of grandeur for their new corporate building. It is a particularly elaborate and grandiose example of a building in the traditionalist style. In stylistic terms, it can be best compared with contemporary domestic commissions such as Quothquhan Lodge in Lanarkshire, 1938 (LB7349) or Arundel Park House in West Sussex, 1958-60 (Grade II listed), rather than its modernist commercial counterparts such as Guardian Royal Exchange, Dundee, 1955-7 (LB25510) or Scottish Widows Headquarters, 1962 (LB43349).
While not considered to be stylistically innovative, the Chivas Brothers Headquarters building is exceptional for the quality of its materials and construction, the proliferation and detail of its historicist design, and its overall composition. There has been relatively little later alteration to the building and it retains much of its original character and authenticity.
Social historical interest
From its completion in the early 1960s until 2019, when Chivas Brothers relocated their headquarters and bottling plant to other locations, the site was one of the major employers in Paisley, with upwards of 450 staff. As the principal building, the former headquarters is an important local landmark, which is of social historical interest as it aids our understanding of the commercial and industrial development of the town, during the early 1960s.
The building is also important for what it can tells us about the booming global whisky industry during the post-war period and the building reflects the effect that this increased demand, appreciation and money had on the industry in Scotland.
Association with people or events of national importance
There is no association with a person or event of national importance.
Canmore: http://canmore.org.uk/ CANMORE ID 198558
Ordnance Survey National Grid Map (surveyed 1949, published 1950) NS4865 SE-A, 1:1,250, Ordnance Survey.
Ordnance Survey National Grid Map (revised 1963, published 1963) NS4865 SE-B, 1:1,250, Ordnance Survey.
Ordnance Survey National Grid Map (surveyed/revised 1952 to 1964, published 1966) NS4865-NS4965 - BC, 1:2,500, Ordnance Survey.
Aberdeen Press and Journal, 27 August 1971, p.12.
The Sphere, 13 June 1964, pp. 12-13.
Close, R, Gifford, J and Walker, F A. (2016) The Buildings of Scotland – Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire, New Haven and London: Yale University Press p. 723.
Glendinning, M, MacInnes, R and MacKechnie, A. (1996) A History of Scottish Architecture, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press p. 555.
Walker, F. A., (1986) South Clyde Estuary: An Illustrated Architectural Guide to Inverclyde and Renfrew. Scottish Academic Press p. 22.
Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Lothian Barclay Jarvis
http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=400473 [accessed 28/04/2022]
Dictionary of Scottish Architects, William Geoffrey Jarvis
http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/architect_full.php?id=400474 [accessed 28/04/2022]
Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Chivas Regal Building
http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/building_full.php?id=400935 [accessed 28/04/2022]
Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Village and Distillery at Tormore Estate, Speyside
http://www.scottisharchitects.org.uk/building_full.php?id=402917 [accessed 16/05/2022]
Boyd, R., Chivas Brothers, Renfrew Road
https://www.paisley.org.uk/paisley-history/paisleys-whisky-industry-pt-4-chivas-brothers/ [accessed 28/04/2022]
https://scotchwhisky.com/whiskypedia/2340/chivas-regal/ [accessed 28/04/2022]
Paisley Grammar School Relocation Plans
https://www.paisley.org.uk/2021/01/councillors-approve-paisley-grammar-school-relocation-plans/ [accessed 28/04/2022]
Scotch Whisky Distiller to Leave Paisley
https://www.paisley.org.uk/2016/11/scotch-whisky-distiller-chivas-leave-paisley/ [accessed 28/04/2022]
The Scotch Whisky Industry Between 1939 and the mid-1970s
https://www.whisky-news.com/images/Article/Scotch_whisky_industry_1939_1975.pdf [accessed 16/05/2022]
Plans, Sections and Elevations (c.1962) by Lothian, Barclay, Jarvis, courtesy of Renfrewshire Council.
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Printed: 03/12/2022 10:06