Completed in 1932 in Water Street in Liverpool, Martins Bank Building was used to secretly store England’s gold in World War II and will now be transformed into a business hub. Tony McDonough reports
One of Liverpool most magnificent office buildings is finally set to come back to life after a number of failed proposals.
Martins Bank Building in Water Street was built in 1932. The Grade II-Listed building remained as a bank for many years until the departure of Barclays in 2009. And, despite various proposals to turn it into a luxury hotel, it has remained largely empty since.
Now London-based workspace provider Kinrise will set about a multi-million pound refurbishment of the 210,000 sq ft building to create new flexible workspaces, while keeping its best features. It has also pledged to utilise the impressive former banking hall on the ground floor as public space for community events and exhibitions.
Sam Lawson Johnston, co-founder of Kinrise which has bought Martins Bank for an undisclosed sum, said: “The acquisition of the Martins Bank Building marks a significant milestone for Kinrise as we expand into our fourth city.
“Liverpool is a richly diverse and vibrant city and we have been looking for a site here for a number of years. Martins Bank Building meets all the specific requirements we look for in a building; central location, abundance of character, great natural light and volume of space – it is the perfect addition to our growing portfolio.
“The property is our largest site to date and we are looking forward to injecting a new lease of life into the building and sharing it with the local community and businesses.”
Originally designed in 1927 as the headquarters for Martins Bank by Herbert J. Rowse, who also designed India Buildings across the road, site was later bought by Barclays in 1965, operating as their flagship Liverpool branch until 2009.
During World War II, Martins Bank performed a hugely important strategic function when its vaults were used to store the bulk of England’s gold reserves, 280 tonnes, as part of Operation Fish. It was part of an overall plan to move the country’s wealth to Canada in the event of a German invasion.
In 2018 it was announced that the building’s owners, Starwood Capital, had sold the building as part of a package of 14 properties to a French property company, Foncière des Régions.
Founded in 2015 by Sam Lawson Johnston, George Aberdeen and Harry Lawson Johnston, Kinrise creates work and cultural spaces. It currently operates sites in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.