The Martins Bank building in Liverpool is a grade II* listed building designed by the renowned achitect Herbert J Rowse (He also designed the Mersey Tunnel buildingsand the works of art n them). It was finally completed in 1932.
Martins Bank had 16th century origins, and was said to have been founded by Sir Thomas Gresham, who began trading in Lombard Street at the sign of the Grasshopper. Barclays Bank purchased Martins Bank in 1969.
During the Second world war a large part of Britain's gold reserve was stored in the Liverpool headquarters of Martins Bank.
Local historians disagree over the meaning of the two main panels that flank the entrance doors. Some say they show Liverpool merchants with their hands on African slaves and are a legacy of the distant past. Others say that it signifies that the prosperity of the city, its maritime connections in the shape of Neptune and this building in particular being a bank is helping the lesser poorer nations. I suppose you can read anything into it if you try hard enough. The fact that the building was completed over 120 years after the slave trade was abolished could give some credance to the second opinion.
Whatever the meaning the carvings are very well executed and do make you think about the past. There are certainly maritime connections with the mermaids and the leaping fish. The grasshopper is obviously a reference to Sir Thomas Gresham.
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