David Jones, a part time drover and farmer’s son, founded the Bank of the Black Ox in 1799 in the premises known as the King’s Head on Stone Street Llandovery (in the rear range of the present Kings Head), where it remained for many years.
According to Roy Saunders, who wrote about the Llandovery Black Ox Bank in the Western Mail February 25th 1935, David Jones was employed when he was 15 years old at the King’s Head Inn where the cattle dealers fell into the habit of asking him to look after their money. His career took a more ambitious turn when he married Anne, the daughter of Rhys Jones of Cilrhedin, who brought with her a fortune of £10,000. This, together with the money he had already made, enabled David Jones to found the Llandovery Bank when he was around 40 years old. David and Anne had two sons, Evan (who died unmarried in 1820) and John (who died in 1813).
The Black Ox Bank was one of the earliest banks established in Carmarthenshire, and had more branches than any other private bank of its period in the county. There was probably no bank of its era which enjoyed more local credit than the Black Ox Bank.
By the time of his death in 1839, David Jones had become High Sheriff of Carmarthen (in 1820) and had amassed a fortune of £140,000, around £13 million in todays money.
After his death, the business was carried on by his three grandsons, David, William and John. David had the bank at Llandovery, William at Lampeter and John at Llandeilo. The Joneses’ bank continued to issue cheques marked with the black ox until the early part of the First World War.
On the death of the three brothers, the three banks, and their sub-branches, became the property of Gerwyn Jones, the son of David Jones and, in 1903, upon the death of Gerwyn Jones the banks were devised to Mrs Mary Eleanor Geraldine Davies-Evans. In 1909 the goodwill of the banks was sold to Lloyds Bank Limited thus ending the existence of the last of the surviving private bank in West Wales
Here in Llandovery, the Bank is now run by Lloyds from the same building, Prospect House in the High Street to which the family moved it in 1903. Sadly, despite a campaign to keep it open, in March 2017 Prospect House will close its doors completely as Lloyds Bank.
The building is Grade II listed and is a mid 18th Century 3 storey town house which was remodelled in Edwardian style in 1903 for David Jones & Co Bank, (the gates and railings are also listed). The deeds state that the house had been known as Castell yr Esgob, possibly relating back to a medieval bishop’s lodging, but that’s another story.