Bishopsgate und die Hansischen Rechte in London


  • Stuart Jenks



Bishopsgate and the Rights of the Hansards in London
Every Hanseatic scholar is well acquainted with the agreement reached in 1282 between the City of London and the North German merchants resident there, since it is the first known document which refers to those traders as the ’merchants of the German Hanse’. While the road leading to the agreement has been analyzed by Fryde, scholars have paid no attention at all to the role the document played in subsequent centuries, although they occasionally mention that the agreement required the Hanseatic Kontor to repair and maintain Bishopsgate, one of the seven gates of the medieval City of London. This scholarly indifference is unwarranted. In fact, the Hanseatic Kontor explicitly described the agreement of 1282 as 'the foundation of our Privileges in the City of London’ (1462) and was scrupulous in maintaining Bishopsgate. The City itself was, in retrospect, less happy with the agreement, and tried again and again to exact local excises from the Hansards, notably scavage (a tax on merchandise entering and leaving the City whose proceeds were earmarked for paving and cleaning the streets), only to be rebuffed with the argument that the 1282 agreement’s blanket guarantee of ’all their liberties hitherto enjoyed reasonably’ applied to scavage. However, the tables turned in 1418, when the City and its Sheriffs, under the tutelage of John Carpenter, from 1417 common clerk of London and the Compiler of the Liber Albus (1419), employed historical and legal arguments of considerable sophistication to dispute the Hansards’ contentions. After seven years of inconclusive argument before King’s Council (and increasing pressure from the City), the Hansards caved in and agreed (1427) to pay a lump sum annually to the Mayor and Sheriffs to enjoy their ancient rights in the City of London. Nonetheless, they continued to disburse substantial funds for the upkeep and. indeed, for a splendid renovation of Bishopsgate (1479/80) which excitecl the admiration of John Stow, author of a famous description of London, in the late 16th Century.