It may no longer be a working bank, but this regal structure once stored an enormous amount of gold. Back when it was Martins Bank, the building played a key role in the world’s most ambitious movement of wealth.
After the start of World War II, much of Great Britain’s gold reserve was secretly stashed inside this bank to hide it from a feared German invasion. About 300 tons (280 tonnes) of gold was carted out of London in three heavily guarded trains. Once the cache arrived in Liverpool, it was lowered down into the bank’s vaults via a nondescript hatch right outside the bank building.
Moving all the gold was part of a wider clandestine project called Operation Fish, which was the largest movement of wealth in world history. The gold hidden within Martins Bank was kept there for safekeeping until it could be sent overseas as part of Winston Churchill’s plan to ship most of the United Kingdom’s wealth to Canada to keep it far from Nazi hands.
A plaque outside the building commemorates the bank’s role in the operation and marks the hatch through which the gold entered the building. The event was also dramatized in the 1993 film The Bullion Boys.