Anglesey Drovers


The story of the American west and the cattle drives that took place in the 1870's and 80's are well documented but the concept of driving cattle to market began not in the USA but in Wales several centuries prior to that.


The Anglesey Drovers took their herds through North Wales and on to Smithfield Market in London some 300 miles away. The drovers tended to travel on foot and put up in lodging along the way. Protection of their feet was of prime importance. Hard walking with any sort of foot disorder such as blisters could cause major delays. To overcome this problem, they greased their feet with pig fat. They would pull on a pair of Welsh woollen stockings making sure they covered the knees. The legs would then be covered with a type of brown paper then greased with animal fat and tied over the top with leather thongs. These stockings were made in villages along the way, knitted mainly my men!

They were assisted on the journey by well trained dogs larger than the South Wales cattle dogs. These dogs had great homing instincts and once they had arrived in London they were sent home alone. The dogs retraced their steps making for the inns that they have stayed at on the way down, lodgings that had been paid for in advance by the drovers.


The drovers started carrying documents down to London and even gold for the crown to pay for taxes. As the drovers could speak English they could act as negotiators. This eventually led to them starting a banking system. They would use their name for example, Jones with an animal as a logo say a brown cow. One of these banks has survived to this day. It is of course Lloyd's Bank and the Black Horse.


For a more detailed account of the drovers I would like to draw your attention to a book,

“Hard Road to London,” by Idris Evans.

Idris was a guest speaker at the society some time ago where he gave a graphic account of the Drovers of North Wales.