The private partnership of David Jones & Co. was founded in Llandovery, Wales in 1799. The area was renowned for its black cattle. Indeed, it was these animals that brought about the formation of the bank. Llandovery was a central meeting point for the Carmarthenshire drovers – these were the men who herded the famous livestock, on foot, along the long and dusty roads from Wales, into England and on to London, where the cattle were eventually sold. The drovers also acted as financiers for the farmers, paying their creditors with the proceeds of the sales in London.
The job of the drover was a difficult and hazardous one, as their well-worn routes attracted highwaymen. With risks such as these, they carried as little cash as possible. As a result, droving banks were established along the way, including that of David Jones & Co. Jones was the son of a local farmer. He had married well, his wife bringing with her some £10,000. It was these funds that Jones used as capital to set up his bank.
The Success of the Black Ox
As with many country banks in England and Wales, the Llandovery bank had a licence to print its own banknotes. These featured a picture of a black ox, which led to the bank becoming known as the Black Ox Bank or Banc yr Eidion Du. The ox became such a strong symbol of trust and integrity that, even into the 19th century, Bank of England notes were treated with great suspicion in much of West Wales.
Under David Jones’s charge, the Black Ox Bank survived the financial crises of the early 19th century. In fact, the bank expanded, taking over Jones, Evans & Co. in 1839. David Jones died a wealthy man, later that same year. The business was carried on and further expanded by his three grandsons: John running the Llandovery branch, David working in Llandeilo branch (opened in 1842) and William at Lampeter (1831).
The Black Ox Bank was taken over by Lloyds in 1909. By this time, it was one of the largest banks in Carmarthenshire. However, the face of banking was rapidly changing, and the days of the smaller banks, particularly the private ones, were numbered. The ox symbol continued to appear on local Lloyds Bank cheques for another 20 years. Llandovery Branch today still has the initials of its founder over the main entrance.