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Exclusive: Five-star hotels eye up Martins Bank

Rumours of Waldorf Astoria in historic building

Published on January 17th 2011.

Exclusive: Five-star hotels eye up Martins Bank

TWO five star hotel operators are in the running to convert the Martins Bank Building on Water Street.

An international spa and restaurateur have also been approached about being involved in the conversion of what was once described as "the most remarkable banking interior in the country".

Some sources have indicated that one of the brands could be Waldorf Astoria - the luxury brand has a history of converting buildings of architectural interest - although no official word has been given so far.

Nevertheless, any move to bring a five-star operation to the city is bound to be welcomed by tourism chiefs - the city's hotels currently only go up to four-star level.

Castlewood Property Management has lodged a planning application with Liverpool City Council, and an accompanying report claims several uses have been looked at for the 11-storey Grade II listed building which is now redundant. They included offices, pub and club use, a casino, and an 80-bedroom “boutique” hotel.

‘Each has been subject to technical and economic viability evaluation, and none have proved viable in current market conditions,” said the report.

The latest plans are for a luxury 150 bedroom hotel with a restaurant and spa. The former banking hall, with its vast glass ceiling and travertine marble fittings would be used as the reception, bar and restaurant.

As the report went on: “A feasibility study has, however, identified a gap in the hotel sector in Liverpool at the top end, and demonstrated that conversion to a five-star hotel could be viable in this location.

“The proposal for a commercial hotel incorporating up to 150 bedrooms, 10,000 sq ft of conference and banqueting facilities and a destination spa of 12-15,000sq ft has generated a positive response from two major branded international five star operators,” it says. “Discussions have also been held with an international spa operator and international chef and restaurateur.’

Martins Bank dates back to the mid-16th century but was taken over by the Bank of Liverpool in 1918, and then Barclays in 1969.

It was a national powerhouse of its time – it had 560 branches in the late 1920s – and the Water Street building was its headquarters – making it the only national bank whose London office was a “branch”.

Opened in 1932, when Liverpool was one of the wealthiest cities in Europe, it was designed by Herbert J. Rowse who was also responsible for the India Buildings on the other side of Water Street, the Philharmonic Hall and the Queensway Tunnel. It has retained its original opulent fittings.Pevsner describes it as Rowse's "masterpiece... and among the very best interwar classical buildings in the country."

During World war II, the building's vault held a portion of the country's gold reserves as it was potentially more resilient from bombs. This was dramatised in the film The Bullion Boys.

Barclays sold the huge Portland stone building to the Carroll Group in 1989, who then sold it on to Castlewood in 1996. It’s been empty since Barclays moved out two years ago.

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16 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Basil FawltyJanuary 7th 2011.

That would be nice.

charlie55January 7th 2011.

Waldorf was the original plan, but now Inter continental are now interested in Martins Bank

AnonymousJanuary 7th 2011.

It would be good to have a five star hotel in Liverpool, but I do hope it's a sensitive restoration whoever does it. Martins Bank is one of the holy of holies in Liverpool architecture and god forbid some money laundering local scum got their hands on it

Champagne socialistJanuary 7th 2011.

Apparently the Waldorf are still interested in Liverpool...the "where" is still the secret, so could be. But as it is now owned by the Hilton we can get used to yoberati parties for the MOBOs etc, in the banking hall. At least it's easier for a fleet of ambulances to park on Water Street/Exchange flags, and it beats Devonshire House or Sir Thomas Hotel as the venue of choice for our glittering Labour Party rulers.

David HoltJanuary 7th 2011.

An excellent idea. I used to have an account with this bank when it was the main City branch of Barclays and there was something very special about the marble banking hall. Truly a masterpiece of art deco which must be preserved for others to enjoy.

exileJanuary 7th 2011.

Thanks for the article. I worked for months on nights [including new years eve] 1658/59 for Costain painters giving the lovely building its first re-paint. Whenever I get home to Liverpool I call in. I had no idea she was vacant. I hope she is used lovingly. Terry Giblin

Fab Four SkinJanuary 8th 2011.

I think that to remind people that this is the city that gave birth to the Beatles, that we should have it renamed as George Martin's Bank Building.

AnonymousJanuary 8th 2011.

@Fab Four skin: This sort of rant is exactly why I love this site. Keep it up!!

scouser in PutneyJanuary 9th 2011.

great memories of a great building. i do hope someone seizes the chance to bring it back to the open again

AnonymousJanuary 10th 2011.

Champagne Socialist says Martins Bank Building is now owned by the Hilton Hotel group, ruling out, it suggests a Waldorf Astoria. However the Waldord Astoria chain is part of Hilton Hotels so who knows......

Joyce CookJanuary 10th 2011.

Could we not put Mrs Eileen Downey from The Adelphi in charge and do another documentary? Cheque in and Cheque out (it's a bank....oh give me some credit!)

Stanley StreetJanuary 10th 2011.

As lost as you do not leave a deposit...

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