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The below article is about the formation of the banking industry in
Northern England. It was retyped to assist the viewer. The author wished
to remain anonymous.
Drovers and Banking
Graziers from England would go up into Scotland and buy cattle from
the Fairs and Trysts such as Dumfries, Falkirk and Crieff. The cattle
were then driven back to England by drovers; these men were skilled in
the art of handling these half wild Highland cattle. A drover with
perhaps a pony, one or two dogs and possibly a boy would drive 40 or 50
beasts back into the rich pastures in and around the district of Craven.
One of the best known graziers/drovers was a M R Birtwhistle of Skipton.
John Birtwhistle is said to have had as many as 20,000 head of cattle to
grass at any given time, and as many as 10,000 on the road. About the
time of the Black Ox Bank coming into being in Wales, using a black ox
as a symbol, a bank in Skipton was about to develop a banking system on
the same lines and issue notes with the image of the Craven Heifer on
them. This is how the Craven Bank came into being. In the 18th/19th
centuries it is believed that somewhere around 100,000 cattle annually
were on the move from Scotland into England.
The Craven Bank was founded in 1791 with offices in Skipton and
Settle. The first partners were William and John Birbeck, William Alcock,
John Peart, Joseph Smith and William Lawson. Individualy they had
developed basic banking systems in their local areas—the Birbecks in
Settle, Alcocks in Skipton, Peart in Grassington and Lawson in Gigglewick—as
sidelines to their professions as merchants, solicitors and
manufacturers. In 1791 the population of Skipton was little more than
2,000, so the Bank's Head Office was located in the bigger town of
In common with many banks at that time, the Craven Bank issued its
own bank notes. Such bank notes were usually illustrated with the
bank's emblem or a picture of the town where it was based. Initially the
Craven Bank's notes bore a design showing Castleberg Rock, which towered
over the town of Settle. The design was later changed to show the Craven
heifer. This animal had been bred by the Rev. William Carr of Bolton
Abbey, a customer of the Bank. The heifer reached an immense size and
was exhibited widely as a freak. For a while the Bank used both designs
but those featuring the heifer proved very popular locally. Many farmers
preferred the notes "wi' cow on" to those of the Bank of England, and
eventually the heifer became the sole feature of Craven Bank notes.
1825 saw the failure of an unprecedented number of banks in England.
This led to a panic in early 1826 and a run on many banks. Only those
who could meet their commitments in gold survived. In February there was
a run on the Craven Bank in Settle but the Bank survived thanks in part
to a public declaration of confidence signed by 83 local influential
The nineteenth century saw various partners come and go, but the
business remained largely in the hands of the original families and
their descendants. One exception was John Mofat, who was a partner from
1812 to 1825. When John Peart died in 1835 he left no male heir, but his
son-in-law William Robinson, joined the firm and the Peart Robinsons
then remained with the Bank until 1937. Another new name entered the
Bank in 1845 when George Stansfield married William Birbeck's
In 1880 it was decided that the Bank should be incorporated as the
Craven Bank Limited. The Bank was to have an authorised capital of ₤1,200,000
divided into 40,000 shares at ₤30 each, and the Head Office was
moved from Settle to Skipton. At that time the Bank had seven branches
and ten sub branches. The next few years were a period of branch
expansion and increased profits, but, by the turn of the century, the
Craven Bank was struggling in a world of increasingly competitive and
In 1906 the Craven Bank Limited was amalgamated with the Bank of
Liverpool. By that time it had branches at Bingley, Bradford, Burnley,
Clitheroe, Colne, Ilkley, Keighley, Manningham, Nelson, Otley, Padiham,
Settle and Silsden; and sub branches at Addingham, Barrowford, Bentham,
Brierfield, Burnley-in-Wharfedale, Burnley, Colne Road, Habergham,
Cononley, Cowling, Cross Hills, Denholme, Earby, Foulridge, Gargrave,
Gisburn, Grassington, Guiseley, Haworth, Hellifield, Ingleton, Long
Preston, Oxenhope, Salterforth, Trawden and Whalley.
In deference to the traditions of the Craven Bank, it was decided
that its branches should continue to operate as an independent district
within the Bank of Liverpool, with Skipton as the district's Head
Office. In 1918, the Bank of Liverpool and Martins Bank Limited
amalgamated. Their title was shortened to Martins Bank Limited in 1928,
and in 1969 they amalgamated with Barclays, creating a bank with more
than 5300 branches in 50 countries.
George Chandler's book "Four Centuries of Banking", on the history
of Martins and its constituents, records the memories of W. B. Carson,
who entered the Craven Bank's Head Office in Skipton in 1898.
"At that time gold was used by the Craven farmers to a great
extent for buying and selling of cattle and sheep, and on a fair
Monday there was quite a big turnover in it. The cattle market in
Skipton was then held in the High Street, and I remember on one or
two occasions a cow managed to elude its owner or driver and got
through the door into the customer's side of the Bank counter.
"The half-yearly balance used to be a pretty hectic affair in
those days as a great deal of the work was left until the last day
of the half year, and the work often went on until about two o'clock
in the morning. It was the custom then to stop work and the staff,
except the juniors, used to partake of the director's beer or
▪ I would like to give thanks for help and information received from
Mrs. Maria Sienkiewicz, Group Archivist Barclays Bank, and also for
information obtained from Dr. A. R. B. Haldane's "The Drove Roads of