Steelyard, Merchants of the

Steelyard, Merchants of the, German hanse, or merchants guild, residing at the Steelyard on the Thames near the present Ironbridge Wharf at London, England. The merchants of the Hanseatic League in London were licensed (1157) by King Henry II. These merchants, of the hanse of Cologne, were free from all London tolls and customs and could trade at fairs throughout England. The merchants of Lübeck and Hamburg, chartered in 1266 by King Henry III, coalesced with the Cologne association in 1282 to become the most powerful Hanseatic colony in London, with houses at many other English ports. Despite the privileges acquired from the English crown, the powerful German merchants refused to grant reciprocal trading rights to English merchants. In 1474, despite English hostility against alien traders, King Edward IV reconfirmed their privileges in payment for the German merchants' support during the Wars of the Roses in England; they also received property rights to the Steelyard. The Steelyard, also known as German House, was a walled community with its own warehouses, weighhouse, church, offices, and residential quarters; German merchants had occupied it since 1320. English merchants, organized after 1370, exerted great pressure on the monarchs to revoke Hanseatic privileges. In 1597, Queen Elizabeth I issued an edict expelling the German merchants from England, and in 1598 the Steelyard was closed.

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