Beverley Town Council are delighted to announce that Beverley has been accepted as members of the Modern Hanseatic League.
What is the Hanseatic League?
The Hanseatic League was formed in the year 1350. It was made up of several northern European countries bordering the North and Baltic Seas, which already traded amongst themselves but which recognised the value of trading with other European countries. These Medieval ‘merchant guilds’ were known as Hanses. Because of its position on the Baltic Sea Coast, the Hanses made Lübeck on the Baltic Sea their Headquarters.
The Hanses traded with 200 towns in 19 different countries from Iceland and Russia to France and Spain, including England and Scotland. The commodities traded included pitch, beeswax and timber from the Baltic states; wine and dyes from France, Spain and Portugal; furs from Russia; cloth and soap from Brugges; hunting birds and salted fish from Norway; honey and dried fish from Iceland and wool, cloth, linen, leather and barrels from Beverley. Trade deals between countries removed import and export duty tariffs – in many ways, the Hansa League was a forerunner of the EEC.
The guilds were innovators in many ways. They built their own specially designed ships to take maximum cargo loads but with flat bottoms so they could load and discharge from beaches where necessary. Because piracy was rife at the time, the ships had high bows and sterns to fire down on attackers. The ships and cargoes were co-owned by up to 30 merchants, so if a ship was lost, the risk was shared, but additionally the ships travelled in convoys of up to 20 vessels for mutual protection. Sharing the risk through co-ownership led to Lloyds of London Insurance and the practice of travelling in convoy and keeping in close contact in case of emergency is just as valuable today.
The Hansa League set up distribution depots called ‘staples’ where goods were packed in water-tight barrels – many made in Beverley - ready for shipment. Two Yorkshire ‘staples’ were York and Hull. Although Beverley transferred goods by barge from Beverley Beck to Hull, there were ships which sailed directly from Beverley to other Hansa League ports, which is why Beverley can be considered a Hansa League Town, alongside King’s Lynn, Boston, Hull, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
The Medieval Hansa League lasted for 400 years. The Modern Hanseatic League was founded in 1980, to reconnect those towns and cities across Europe for the purposes of business, tourism, education, sport, culture and friendship.
There are now 197 towns in 16 modern countries with Beverley being the 198th. Every year, the Modern Hansa League holds a conference (meant to be in Brilon in Germany this year, but sadly cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic) which attracts thousands of delegates where members can promote their own towns, their cultural offering and business opportunities. Being a member ensures 197 towns will hear about beautiful Beverley through marketing opportunities we would not have access to without being a member.
There is a Youth Hansa which encourages young people to visit, study and work in those other 197 towns, arrange sporting fixtures and educational visits to learn about each other’s culture. Beverley’s schools, college and young peoples’ organisations can only benefit from developing links with similar educational establishments and organisations across Europe!
Next year, Beverley celebrates the 1300th anniversary of the death of its own founder, St John of Beverley. Social distancing permitting, it will be a great opportunity to invite people from 197 fellow Modern Hansa League towns to Beverley to find out more about St John of Beverley and the impact he had on this area of East Yorkshire, which was once the 10th biggest town in England, due to the trade its Guilds enjoyed with fellow Hansa League towns.
So many have benefited from Hansa League membership in the past and Beverley Town Council are excited about the possibilities that membership of the Modern Hansa League will bring to the town in the future.
Beverley’s admission to membership of The Modern Hansa League was approved on June 5th, 2020.
Photo - Hamish Stewart
Hamish Stewart has done a huge amount of research and found evidence of Hansa League ships coming up the River Hull to Beverley to pick up cargoes for N. Europe from York and Hull as well as Beverley.