Tales of the Black Ox

Black Ox Bank banknote

Black Ox Bank banknote, 19th century

The 18th century farms of west Wales specialised in rearing Welsh Black cattle. They were an ancient and hardy breed. However, to get the best price for them, they had to be transported far away to London. As there were no railways yet, the cattle had to walk.

The men who made the journey with them were known as drovers. But droving was not all about the livestock. Money and its movement was a large part of the job - the cash from the sale of the cattle had to be brought back. Many people entrusted the men with other sums of money that needed to be moved in and out of Wales. Rents and taxes often made their way across country in drovers’ pockets. But transporting cash on foot, along predictable routes, meant that the drovers were a target for highwaymen and bandits.

If there were banks along the route, then this would really help cut the risk of robbery. It was with this in mind that David Jones (himself a successful drover) decided to set up a bank. He opened his first branch in Llandovery in 1799. The location was key - the wide flat pasture already served as a meeting point for the drovers and their animals.

Jones took the image of the black ox as the bank’s symbol, and it soon became known as the Black Ox Bank. When he began to issue his own banknotes, an engraving of the famous cattle was prominently displayed.

Lloyds Bank took over the firm in 1909, but the branches continued to use the black ox on their cheques for years to come.

Come back next time to find out who the Lloyd family’s influential friends were.

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