Click on your browser's back arrow to return to the "Articles" page.

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 Settle.

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 people.

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 granddaughter.

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 larger banks.

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 whisky."

▪ 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 Scotland."

© 2011 Innovare Design. The majority of  materials presented on this website are copyrighted by the original authors, etc. In addition, the appropriate forms have been filed with the United States Library of Congress in order to protect original authorship under 17 U.S.C. Sec. 102(a). Further, licensing fees have been paid for use of some images. Therefore, under the provisions of the U.S. Copyright Law, as well as the Berne Agreement, for those countries honoring the Berne Agreement, you are hereby notified not to use, or copy, any materials on this website without the prior written consent of the copyright holder. Questions or Concerns? Please contact or These two email addresses are not presented as links. They must be retyped in the address line for your email. This was done to avoid unnecessary junk email being forwarded to the website. Thank you for your understanding.