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The below article is about the formation of the banking industry in
Wales. It was retyped to assist the viewer. The author wished to remain
Founding of a Useful Organisation
Having been interested in old drove roads and pack horse tracks for
some time now, this partly due to reading Bob Orrell's "Saddle Tramp in
the Lake District", I recently acquired a copy of Roy Saunders'
excellent book "The Drover's Highway". This reminded me very much of the
BBC1 dramatisation of "Drover's Gold", which was set in the 1840s, and
tells the tale of a cattle drive from the Brecon Beacons to London. It
highlights what a tough and dangerous occupation droving was in the 19th
century. Once in London, all the cattle having been sold, you would have
thought all the hard work and danger was overónot so; the most dangerous
part of the drove was yet to come, i.e.: returning home safely
with the gold sovereigns.
The long journey home meant that the travellers were seen as easy
pickings for hghwaymen and armed gangs. There was a need to establish a
way of transferring the proceeds from the sale of stock to a bank near
the home farm and this prompted David Jones, son of a Carmarthenshire
farmer, to found the Llandovery Bank in 1799. The notes issued by his
firm were embellished with an engraving of a Welsh black ox and thus the
bank became known locally as the 'Black Ox Bank' or, in Welsh, 'Banc yr
Eidion Du'. The design was chosen to illustrate the roots of the bank
and to emphasise the close association between banking and farming in
Historically, the Welsh hill farmers derived their main income from
the breeding of black cattle. Dealers purchased herds of these cattle at
local fairs and then drove them into Eastern England to be fattened up
before sale in London markets. Droving was not an easy occupation. Roads
were often impassable, turnpike tolls were high and footpads preyed on
the unwary traveller. Drovers provided a vital link between the isolated
communities of Wales and London. Many acted as government agents,
transmitting Ship Money, collected in Wales by the officials of Charles
1st, to London. Also, the stewards of Welsh estates sent rents,
collected from tenants, to their English landlords by similar means.
These transactions became a feature of droving life and assumed
considerable proportions; leading to the establishment of drovers' banks
to facilitate the process. David Jones established his bank in 1799 at
the King's Head in Llandovery. This town was the traditional meeting
point of the Carmarthenshire drovers as there was rich meadow land for
resting. In order to win the confidence of farmers and drovers and
attract the gold brought in by the droving trade, Jones adopted the black
ox as a symbol for the bank.
Under his auspices the 'Black Ox Bank' survived the financial crisis
of the early 19th century and flourished. By the middle of the 19th
century it had more branches than any other private bank in
Carmarthenshire. In 1909 Lloyds Bank absorbed the 'Black Ox Bank' and,
for twenty years after that date, cheques issued by its branches in
Llandeilo, Lampeter and Llandovery carried the black ox picture.
Following the merger, the banking business was moved to Prospect
House in the High Street of Llandovery where it has remained ever since.
The initials of the founder appear over the doorway. Engraved on the
pillars fronting the building are the words: "Founded this Bank 1799. In
memory of David Jones of Blaenos, Born 1758. He was high sheriff of
Carmarthenshire 1820 and died 1839."