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The Steelyard was the residence of the Hanse Merchants, who obtained a settlement in London as early as 1250. Valuable privileges were granted to them by Henry III., and these were renewed and confirmed by Edward I., who was anxious to encourage the trade of the City by all possible means. Many privileges were also conceded to the Steelyard merchants by the City, in return for which they undertook to maintain Bishopsgate in good repair and to assist in its defence when necessity arose. In spite of the jealousy of the English merchants, the foreigners flourished exceedingly, but towards the end of the sixteenth century their power began to fail. As English traders became more enterprising, the monopoly of the Steelyard merchants disappeared, and finally, in 1598, Elizabeth expelled them from the country.
Next to this (Cosin) lane o the east, is the steelyard (as they term it) a place for merchants of Almaine, that used to bring hither, as well wheat, rye and other grain, as cables, ropes, masts, pitch, tar, flax, hemp, linen cloth, wainscots, wax, steel, and other profitable merchandizes: unto these merchants in the year 1259 Henry the third, at the request of his brother Richard earl of Cornwall, king of Almaine, granted that all and singular the merchants, having a house in the City of London, commonly called Guilda Aula Theutonicorum, should be maintained and upholden through the whole realm, by such freedoms, and free usages or liberties, as by the King and his noble progenitors time they had, and enjoyed, etc. Edward the first renewed and confirmed that charter of Liberties granted by his Father. And in the tenth year of the same Edward, Henry Wales being Mayor, a great controversy did arise between the said Mayor, and the merchants of the Haunce of Almaine, about the reparations of Bishopsgate, then likely to fall, for that the said merchants enjoyed divers privileges, in respect of maintaining the said gate, which they now denied to repair: for the appeasing of which controversy the king sent his writ to the Treasurer and Barons of his exchequer, commanding that they should make inquisition thereof, before whom the merchants being called, when they were not able to discharge themselves, since they enjoyed the liberties to them granted for the same, a precept was sent to the Mayor, and sheriffs, to distrain the said merchants to make reparations, namely Gerard Marbod Alderman of the Haunce, Ralph de Cussarde a citizen of Colen, Ludero de Deneuar, a Burgess of Triuar, John of Aras, a Burgess of Teriuon, Bartram of Hambrudge, Godestalke of Hundondale, a Burgess of Triuon, John de Dele a Burgess of Munstar, then remaining in the said City of London: for themselves, and all other merchants of the Haunce, and so they granted 210 marks sterling to the Mayor and Citizens, and undertook that they and their successors should from time to time repair the said gate, and bear the 33 third part of the charges in money, and men to defend it when need were. and for this agreement, the said Mayor and Citizens granted to the said merchants, their liberties which till of late they have enjoyed, as namely amongst other, that they might lay up their grain which they brought into this realm, in Inns, and sell it in their garners, by the space of forty days after they had laid it up: except by the Mayor and Citizens they were expressly forbidden, because of dearth or other reasonable occasions. Also they might have their Aldermen as they had been accustomed, forseen always that he were of the City, and presented to the Mayor and Alderman of the City, so oft as any should be chosen, and should take an oath before them to maintain justice in their courts, and to behave themselves in their office according to law, and as it stood with the customs of the City. Thus much for their privileges: whereby it appeareth, that they were great merchants of corn brought out of the East parts hither, in so much that the occupiers of husbandry in this land were enforced to complain of them for bringing in such abundance, when the corn of this realm was at an easy price: whereupon it was ordained by Parliament, that no person should bring into any part of this realm by way of merchandise, wheat, rye or barely, growing out of the said realm, when the quarter of wheat exceeded not the price of 6 shillings 8 pence, rye 48. the quarter, and barley 3s. the quarter, upon forfeiture the one half to the king, the other half to the seizer thereof. These merchants of Haunce had their Guild hall in Thames street in place aforesaid, by the said Cosin lane. Their hall is large, builded of stone, with three arched gates toward the street, the middlemost whereof is far bigger than the other, and is seldom opened, the other two be mured up, the same is now called the old hall.