The Steelyard was the main trading base (kontor) of the Hanseatic League in London during 15th and 16th centuries.
The word ’Steelyard’ derived from the Middle Low German Stalhof / Dutch Staalhof.
The Steelyard was located on the north bank of the Thames beside the outflow of the Walbrook
, in the Dowgate ward of the City of London. The site is now covered by Cannon Street
station and commemorated in the name of Steelyard Passage.
The first mention of a Hansa Almaniae
(a "German Hansa") in English records is in 1282, concerning merely the community of the London trading post, only later to be made official as the Steelyard and confirmed in tax and customs concessions granted by Edward I, in a Carta Mercatoria
("merchant charter") of 1303.
The true power of the Hanse in English trade came much later, in the 15th century, as the German merchants, led by those of Cologne expanded their premises and extended their reach into the cloth-making industry of England. This led to constant friction over the legal position of English merchants in the Hanseatic towns and Hanseatic privileges in England, which repeatedly ended in acts of violence. Not only English wool but finished cloth was exported through the Hansa, who controlled the trade in Colchester and other cloth-making centres.
When the Steelyard was finally destroyed in 1469, the merchants of Cologne were exempted by Edward IV, which served to foment dissension among Hansards when the Hanse cities went to war with England, and Cologne was temporarily expelled from the League. But England, in the throes of the Wars of the Roses, was in a weak bargaining position, so despite several heavy defeats suffered by the Hanseatic fleet
Lübeck, Bremen and Hamburg only sold their common property, the London Steelyard, to the South Eastern Railway in 1852. Cannon Street
station was built on the site and opened in 1866.
The Steelyard, like other Hansa stations, was a separate walled community with its own warehouses on the river, its own weighing house, chapel, counting houses and residential quarters. In 1988 remains of the former Hanseatic trading house, once the largest medieval trading complex in Britain, were uncovered by archaeologists during maintenance work on Cannon Street
As a church the Germans used former All-Hallows-the-Great
, since there was only a small chapel on their own premises.