The Steelyard

Has been described as a Possible Fortified Town House

There are no visible remains

NameThe Steelyard
Alternative Names
Historic CountryLondon and Middlesex
Modern AuthorityCity and County of the City of London
1974 AuthorityGreater London
Civil ParishCity Of London

Downstream from Baynard's Castle, the Steelyard had a tower (Renn 2014)

The Steelyard took its name from the large scales used in weighing imported goods. This was the London trading centre of the Hanseatic League, a Northern European trading league comprising 66 cities/towns and 44 confederates. The merchants first appeared in England in the reign of Ethelred (973-1016), and the first record of a house in London, possibly near the steelyard, is in 1157. They expanded their 'territory' in along Upper Thames Street, and led a life apart from the English, electing their own aldermen in their own guildhall, drinking their own Rhenish wine, issuing their own currency, refusing to allow women within their properties, refusing to play games with the English. In 1551 Edward VI was persuaded to withdraw their privileges, but they continued to live there until they were banished by Elizabeth I. The steelyard Hall was turned into a naval store. Although merchants returned during the reign of James I, their privileges were not reinstated. The Steelyard was destroyed in the Great Fire, and although some houses were rebuilt and german merchants continued to live and trade there, the premises were sold in 1853 to build a central warehouse of the Victoria Dock Company, and in 1865, Cannon Street Station was built on the site. (PastScape)

Two phases of excavation and an extensive watching brief, funded by Speyhawk plc, took place concurrently with contractors' groundworks underneath the railway viaduct between Upper Thames Street and the river, from August 1988 to October 1989.

The earliest features found, to the N, were a 30m (100ft) length of late Roman timber revetment running W-E (see Cannon Street Station north, p.162), followed by a sequence of Saxon banks of clay, rafts of brushwood and stone rubble, with pits and hearths to the N

To the NW, controlled excavation revealed a masonry building 10.3m (35ft) wide, extending S from the N end of the site for at least 17m (58ft). The walls, built of ragstone on chalk and gravel foundations, survived up to 1.4m (4.5ft) in height above the level of the floor, the latter mostly of crushed chalk or mortar, frequently renewed. The building was a single-aisled hall, the ground floor of which was probably used for storage: architectural details of two square pier bases in situ and associated stones reused in a later context suggest a late 12th c date. This building is identified as the Guildhall of the merchants of Cologne, who are documented in London in 1175. Further chalk foundations indicated that the Guildhall was enlarged towards the river by at least 31m (105ft), probably around 1300, and that other buildings were constructed to the E, presumably the houses, shops and storerooms of the traders of the Hanseatic League who acquired the site in 1475, when it was known as the Steelyard. This precinct extended to a late medieval river wall found as far S as the present river frontage. Later deposits were truncated by post-medieval cellaring partly re-using earlier masonry, and by construction of the railway viaduct in 1865. The latter included an inclined cab road running between the level of the street and the platforms, which was photographically recorded by HMBC before demolition. (Heathcote 1990)

Gatehouse Comments

The base for the German merchants is London this was a separate walled community with its own warehouses on the river, its own weighing house, church, counting houses and residential quarters. Although usually consider as a commercial base the town houses of London merchants were also warehouses and the separation between residential and trade properties is, too great extent, artificial. Therefore recorded as a 'fortified town house' in Gatehouse database.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTQ326808
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

No photos available. If you can provide pictures please contact Castlefacts

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  • Renn, Derek., 2014, 'The other towers of London' in Hidden histories and records of antiquity; essays on Saxon and medieval London for John Clark, curator emeritus, Museum of London (London and Middlesex Archaeology Society Special Paper 17) p. 32-5
  • Schofield, J., 1995, Medieval London Houses (Yale University Press) p. 215 No. 167
  • Schofield, J., 1981, 'Medieval waterfront buildings in London' in G. Milne and B. Hobley (eds) Waterfront Archaeology in Britain and Northern Europe (CBE research Report 41) p. 29-30
  • Prockter, A., Taylor, R. and Fisher, J. (eds), 1979, The A to Z of Elizabethan London (London Topographical Society 122) X103


  • Heathcote, J., 1990,'Excavation round-up 1989' London Archaeologist Vol. 6.6 p. 161 online copy
  • Honeybourne, M.B., 1965, 'The reconstructed map of London under Richard II' London Topographical Record Vol. 22 p. 49-50