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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 anonymous.

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 Mid Wales.

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."


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