- Merchants of the Staple
The Merchants of the Staple, also known as the Merchant Staplers, was an English company which controlled the export of wool to the continent during the late medieval period.
The company of the staple may perhaps trace its ancestry back as far as 1282 or even further, but probably the safest date to accept would be 1359.
From 1314, the Crown required all wool for export to be traded at a designated market, called 'the staple'. This allowed the Crown to monitor the trade and levy tax on exports. After Calais was conquered in 1347 by the English, Calais was the staple from 1363, after that right had been assigned in turns to Bruges and Antwerp in the first half of the 14th century. A group of twenty-six traders was incorporated as the Company of the Staple at Calais. In exchange for its cooperation in the payment of taxes, the company was granted a total monopoly on wool exports from England. The company was important to the English crown, both as a source of revenue, and through its role in the defence of Calais against the French.
As domestic cloth production increased, raw wool exports were less important, diminishing the power of the Merchants. In 1558, with the loss of Calais to the French, the staple was transferred to Bruges where the Merchant Staplers continued to enjoy their monopoly on exports. However, in 1614, export of raw wool was banned entirely during the Cockayne Project of William Cockayne and wool was traded only in domestic staples. The project failed however, because the Estates-General of the Netherlands banned the import of cloth from England. In 1617 the English lifted their ban, but the Dutch ban remained in place. The Merchant Staplers continued to exist, but only in local markets.
The Company still exists but now as a dining club, based in Yorkshire, but makes charitable contributions to charities involved in the wool business.
William Browne 1410-1489 was Mayor of the Calais Staple.
Thomas Davenport, Mayor of Leicester, was a Stapler.
- Defunct companies of the United Kingdom
- Hanseatic League
- Economic history of England
- Companies established in the 14th century
- United Kingdom company stubs
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