Llanelly Savings Bank - a brief history

The first Savings Bank in Llanelli was opened on the 10th April 1847 on the first floor of a house on the corner of Market Street and Park Street, opposite the Cambrian Hotel. Its ethos was to provide working people with a safe place for their hard-earned money, however small the amount.

The Bank’s Rule Book determined that a maximum yearly deposit was £30 and encouragingly at the end of that first year they held a sum of £1,000, a modest beginning but we should consider the wages of the average working man of that time.

John Innes in his book Old Llanelly wrote ‘Thrift received a powerful stimulus when in 1847, there was established in Llanelly, one of the most useful institutions the town has ever seen’.

The Actuary was the accountant Hopkin Bevan, the father of Llewellyn D Bevan, one of Llanelli’s famous C19th sons who went on to become well-known in the US and later Australia where he settled, as a great Non-conformist preacher and one of the founders of the Dominion. Llewellyn D Bevan was the first depositor, investing five shillings.

The co-founder and driving force was also a famous man of the Independent Movement of Nonconformity, the Rev. David Rees, Capel Als. Rees’s interests were not just confined to religious activity- he founded two further chapels during his tenure in Capel Als (1828-69), namely Park Street Chapel (now the Iceland building), and established Park Church in Murray Street in 1869 for his English-speaking congregation who came to work in the town. He was involved in the other Independent Chapels of Bryn, Siloah, Seaside and Capel y Doc.

He had a strong social conscience and was a keen advocate of education for all, was involved in the establishment of Market Street School in 1848 and was credited by many for being instrumental in civilising the town. He was also involved in many areas of commerce and industry. He was a member of the Llanelly Board of Guardians and Llanelly Board of Health. He stood for thrift and took a strong stance against ‘dissipation’. To quote Innes again, ‘David Rees and his alliance with local police sergeant ‘Lewis Police’ made pawnbroking in Llanelly unviable for many years’. Rees’ children Bernard, Elizabeth, Luther and Frederick were listed on the Bank’s records as the second, third, fourth and fifth Depositors, each banking a guinea. On that first day, the Manager’s Book showed a total investment of £32. 9s and had a dozen depositors. A sad note to add is that David Rees’ two elder sons were tragically drowned when swimming at Llanelly Sands in 1851.

Other founders of the Bank included William Chambers, father and son, also C W Nevill, whose father Richard Janion Nevill was the first Treasurer. The Nevills started a link that continued well into the 20th century with Colonel Charles Wm Nevill, OBE, TD, (1907-1973) serving as a Trustee and Chairman of the South West Wales Trustee Savings Bank for many years until his death in December 1972.

A copy of the Rules from a later time indicated the opening hours were 1-3pm on Thursdays, although a Hunts’ Directory of 1849 show the opening hours as 12pm-2pm on Saturdays. A minimum deposit was 1 shilling and £30 the maximum a customer could deposit in one year. Once the balance reached £150 no more could be paid in and payment of interest ceased when the account reached £200. As indicated earlier in this article, during that first year, deposits totalled £1,000. By 1896, the bank held £37,000. Gladstone had opened the Post Office Savings Bank in 1861 and the Treasury policy was to popularise that to the detriment of the older established Trustee Savings Banks, which had started in Scotland. It was thought that Llanelli couldn’t sustain two Savings Banks and coupled with the death in 1894 of T H Rogers, the Actuary, the Llanelly Savings Bank was closed and its customers were recommended to transfer their deposits to the Post Office. These funds stood at £40,000.

However, in 1934 the continued expansion of the Swansea Savings Bank, which became the South West Wales Trustee Savings Bank, was responsible for opening a Savings Bank at 12, Market Street, Llanelli. The Manager was Mr John Elfryn Stephens. The growth of the Llanelli Branch was steady under Mr Stephens, who died in 1942 and it being wartime, he was succeeded by his wife Viera. By 1960, the Branch’s financials stood at figure of £2 million and 11,000 depositors. Brynmor Voyle was appointed Manager in 1963 and his drive and energy took the Branch to a sum of £3.600 million in investments and 20,000 depositors by 1969, and the Branch had clearly outgrown the small shop-sized building, where the Manager was expected to live above ’the shop’, as a form of security, a quaint bank policy.

Growing up in 12, Market Street was quite an experience and our family memories of our years living there are special. We had no separate entrance but had to march through the bank in working hours and only my parents were allowed a set of the front door Chubb keys for out-of-hours. We outgrew that flat too, but living in the centre of the thriving Market Street during the 1960’s was wonderful, full of life, colourful characters, umpteen pubs, and a cinema at either end.

After lengthy negotiations, the empty adjoining building was acquired. It had originally been The Bird in Hand pub, but had been in use by Llanelli CID as part of the old Llanelli Police Station next door, who had by then, transferred to their new Police Station in Waunlanyrafon. The Bank’s architect Michael Watkin drew up the plans for the new TSB, the builders were J & P Zammit and Co. Demolition started on Numbers 10 and 12, Market Street in November 1971.
Interestingly, coming full circle in its history, the Branch transferred for the duration of the rebuild to the site of the original Llanelly Savings Bank at No.30 Market Street on the 1st November 1971, taking over the corner premises that had been a wallpaper shop. There were delays and hiccups in the project as the first firm of builders went bust and the temporary premises were badly flooded the year the Lliedi burst its banks, but progress was made and the Foundation stone on right hand side of the door of the new Trustee Savings Bank at 10/12 Market Street was laid by Mr Sidney Heath MBE, President of the South West Wales Trustee Savings Bank on the 15th February 1973. The stone contained a casket holding the latest Annual Report, coins and other items including a copy of the Llanelli Star, and was hidden behind a covering fascia of black granite. The Llanelli Star reported that they thought it would remain in place for more than a century. However, the reason for writing this article is part of the covering of granite has been ‘removed’ and the Foundation Stone has been revealed.

On Monday, 5th November 1973, Llanelli’s new Trustee Savings Bank was open for business, a state- of-the-art banking experience with the most advanced computer system of all the banks at the time. The Branch’s growth had continued in its temporary home, 26,000 people had deposited £6,000,000 at the Llanelli branch by 1973.

The official opening on Tuesday 12th March 1974 was a grand affair, it included a Civic Reception in the Mayor’s Parlour, the official opening of the bank door was performed by Sir Athelstan Caroe, CBE, BA (Cantab), Chairman of the TSB Association, with Regional and National Trustees, and Llanelli’s Civic Dignitaries in attendance. This was followed by a grand luncheon at the Stradey Park Hotel, where the guests enjoyed a menu of Cream of Asparagus, Vol au Vent Neptune, Roast Saddle of Welsh Lamb, with redcurrant jelly and mint sauce, Pommes Croquettes and vegetables, followed by Vacherin au Fraises. Speeches and toasts were delivered and the taste for 20th century banking had arrived in Llanelli.

By 1975, TSB Llanelli’s balances due to depositors amounted to almost £7.5 million pounds, a growth of £1.2 million in a year. Clever marketing, good interest rates, no charges on cheques and taking banking into people’s places of work such as BSC Trostre, Cynheidre Colliery, British Leyland Pressings Division, Multiflex Kitchens, Kidwelly Optical Factory, etc, no doubt accounted for this growth.

One of the unique things that TSB Llanelli became known for was its Art Gallery where artists, potters and photographers from Llanelli and beyond were invited to exhibit their work, something that was rolled out to the other branches as they were modernised and had a wall to spare.

The Branch thrived for two more decades at Market Street, undergoing upgrades to its systems and layout, but by the mid- 1990s it was struck by two blows- one was the town redevelopment plan which killed off what was left of Market Street and secondly, on a national level in 1995, the TSB amalgamated with Lloyds Bank to become Lloyds TSB plc. Sadly, the Branch was closed a few years later, the staff transferred to the bigger, grand Victorian Lloyds Bank premises in Stepney Street although the old TSB Sort Code of 77-65-10 is still used by us former TSB customers. The TSB premises became part of Tom Peppers nightclub.

Quite a tale and a reflection of the changing times and fortunes of a Llanelli Town centre building. No.12 Market Street was once a sweet shop, hemmed in by pubs, The Dynevor Castle and The Black Lion on one side and the Bird in Hand on the other, then it became a Savings Bank which had been established by a committed teetotaller, and eventually in the 21st century, became a popular late-night cocktail bar.

© Lisa M Voyle 2019

Notes and Citations

  • BV’s TSB Llanelli scrap books.
  • Old Llanelly by John Innes. p.122
  • South West Wales Trustee Savings Bank Annual Reports 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975
  • Llanelli Star, 20th March 1974
  • South Wales Evening Post, 12th March 1974
  • Llanelli News, 14th March 1974
  • Llanelly Lives by Howard M Jones p.167, p175,
  • Hunts’ Directory 1849
  • Photograph of the corner of Market Street and Park Street courtesy of Doug Simpson