Tag Archives: Hans Holbein

The Hanseatic League in London


What was founded in the twelfth century and had become known by the thirteenth as the Hanseatic League was  essentially an  alliance of mercantile  guilds in maritime cities bordering the North Sea and Baltic, extending from Edinburgh in Scotland in the west to Novgorod in Russia in the east.


In London, its headquarters was the so-called “Steelyard”, which for much of its existence was essentially an  enclave of Germany.  Here, the relationship between local and German  merchants was  sometimes strained (*).  The following writ was issued in Westminster on this day in 1388:

“Whereas the merchants of the cities of London and Norwich and the boroughs of [King’s] Lynn, Great Yarmouth, St Botolph [Boston] and [Kingston on] Hull had complained that the men of Lubeck, Rostock, Wismar, Stralsund and Hamburg in Germany had arrested their servants and goods in … Stralsund, … whereof the said merchants were innocent, the King commanded the mayor and sheriffs of London to arrest all the men, goods and merchandise of the towns of … Germany being in the ports of London or elsewhere … , and to detain them until they … answer to such charges as may be made against them on behalf of the King …  ”.

Steelyard (C13-)

(*) Indeed, London merchants forced the – albeit only temporary – expulsion of German ones  in  the early post-Medieval period.

St Andrew Undershaft

Another in the  series on City of London buildings that survived the Great Fire of 1666, and that still survive to this day …



The church of St Andrew Undershaft was originally  built in the twelfth century, and rebuilt in the fourteenth, and again, in the Perpendicular Gothic style, in around 1520-32.  It was undamaged in the Great Fire, although the seventeenth-century stained-glass windows were destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1992.



The artist Hans Holbein was a parishioner here.  Among the many memorials inside is   one to the Merchant Taylor and amateur antiquarian John Stow (d. 1605), the author of “A Survay of London” (the famous last  words of which were “And so I end, wanting time to travel further in this work”).


Stow appears  with a quill-pen in his hand.  Every third year, on or around the anniversary of his death on April 5th, as part of a special service in his memory, he   is ceremonially presented  with a new quill (and his old one is given to the  winner of an essay competition for local children, with London as its subject).