Martins Bank

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Liverpool, Martins Bank

Former Martins Bank (now Barclays), Water Street, of 1927-32, is the masterpiece of Herbert J. Rowse, and among the very best interwar classicalGlossary Term buildings in the country. Won in a competition judged by Charles Reilly, the design perfectly expresses the American classicism promoted through Reilly's Liverpool School of Architecture, where Rowse studied before travelling in Canada and the United States. Portland stoneGlossary Term on a steel frame, ten storeys, the upper ones set back. Ornament is judiciously concentrated at top and bottom, more emphasis being placed on beauty of proportion than on surface decoration. Interior more opulent. The central entrance leads to a majestic top-lit banking hall, with island counter and vaulted arcades on four sides. Travertine walls, floor and columns (the latter hollow, threaded on to the frame), relieved with gilding, bronze and coloured marbles. Every detail, down to the stationery holders, was overseen by Rowse. Circular corner lobbies, those at the SW and NE giving access to lettable offices on the upper floors. These cantileverGlossary Term out over the banking hall, up to the skylight edges. The eighth-floor board room is like the hall of a RenaissanceGlossary Term palace, with large chimneypiece and painted, beamed ceiling. On the roof are penthouses for lift machinery and a flat for the manager, linked by colonnades enclosing a roof garden. Interior and exterior sculpture, illustrating themes of money and the sea, is by Herbert Tyson Smith, assisted by Edmund Thomson and George Capstick. The flat, linear style is influenced by the Paris Exhibition of 1925. The main bronze doors are specially notable.



Horizontal projection (e.g. step, canopy) supported at one end only.


A term used for the architecture of Ancient Greece and Rome, revived at the Renaissance and subsequently imitated around the Western world. It uses a range of conventional forms, the roots of which are the orders, or types of column each with its fixed proportions and ornaments (especially Doric, Ionic and Corinthian). Classical buildings tend also to be symmetrical, both externally and on plan. Classical architecture in England began c. 1530 with applied ornamental motifs, followed within a few decades by fully-fledged new buildings.

Portland stone

A hard, durable white limestone from the Isle of Portland in Dorset. Portland roach is rough-textured and has small cavities and fossil shells.


The revival of classical architecture that began in 15th-century Italy and spread through Western Europe and the Americas in the following two centuries, finding distinctive forms and interpretations in different states and regions. From c. 1830 the Italian version was revived in Britain as a style in its own right (sometimes called Neo-Renaissance or Italianate), i.e. as distinguished from the native Georgian classical tradition.