Copyright 2022 © Ged Dodd

 aka PeaceHavens Project

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The Hanseatic League

 The Hanseatic League was a federation of cities, which had developed from European merchant guilds in mediaeval Europe into an early European economic bloc. Through the late 13th and 14th centuries it became a major confederation of cities not only in northern Germany but extending across Scandinavia to Russia, and involving reciprocal trade agreements with cities in England.  The League had enormous economic clout and had a great sway in politics and culture in Europe for centuries paving the way for future generations and the UK-Russian Flax Trade. During the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Hanseatic League exported thousands of bales of flax each year from its administrative offices (kontor) in Novgorod and Livonia.

  The League's ships plied the major trade routes across the North Sea and the Baltic, and the cog was its tramp cargo vessel. First records of the cog appear in the 10th century. Previous Viking longships had little space for cargo. The cog, or cogge, was rounded, tub-like, with a high clinker-planked hull, a high stern and a deck which covered a considerable hold. Early accounts indicate that it had a steering rudder on the starboard side, though by the mid 13th century this had been replaced by a stern rudder. There were eventually small raised decks at the bow and the stern. Later the boats were developed for purely trading purposes and were called Galliots or Galeas.


  The photo, far right shows a seal for the port of Dover c.1284 AD. After the decline of the Hanseatic League the flax trade followed the existing routes which has been well mapped and used many centuries before and lots of the practices used at the ports would still have been in use in the 18th/19th century. The Hanseatic merchants from Livonia were Riga, Reval and Dorpat .. if it wasn't broke they tended not to fix it .. but nothing could hold back the Industrial Revolution as shown with the seal below ....


 Rein Hemp Seal found in Stralsund, Germany on the Hanseatic League Route.






(Rein Hemp)



 Baltic States Cross flax seals found in Denmark/Sweden.

See also IDS465, IDS 794 and IDS879


+ shield with
5/5/-/- pellets




Paul Cannon
Skive Museum



 IDS 878 - From Denmark where N.K Liebgott ascertains that it came from the Dutch town of Zwolle in the 16th century (probably via the Hanseatic League.) The original city of export was probably Riga on the Baltic Sea.  We have 4 seals with 6K grading on the database .. all found in Denmark/Sweden ..  and none found in the UK  Exportation of 6K (3rd sort or 6 head) bales (Novogorods*) was quite low, most being for home consumption.



A lead hemp seal found at Port Hamburg in Germany.

   Here is a seal found during archaeological excavations at the Port of Hamburg brought to my attention by Project member Paul Cannon. As the ships made several ports of call on their way to the UK from St Petersburg it was presumably lost overboard while calling in at the port.






H 325






Paul Cannon

Port of Hamburg



Ident page

Hemp Inspector S.Levteev working out of 325 post in St Petersburg in 1815


Another lead seal found at Uckermark, near Berlin in Germany.

Of the two recorded bale seals found in Germany both have a ПД = PD Hemp

Inspector designation whereas Flax seal inspectors are normally designated ЛД = LD.













Tore Rodehorst

Uckermark, Berlin


Ident page

Hemp Inspector I.Davydov working out of 257 post in St Petersburg in 1824.


Some of the Cloth Bale Clamps found during the excavations at Port Hamburg.


There are many marvellous pictures surviving which give a good

 idea of the trading ports of Europe in the 13th to the 19th century.

Traders weighing gold coins.         The Port of Hamburg 1647             Novogorod Market         


The loading quayside in the Medieval Era

Note bales, criminals in the wheel crane, weighing scales, wharf wives, sails with a cross.



Other trade in the Medieval Era with the Hanseatic League.

Note the crane, wine, gunpowder kegs, timber, cloth, mill stones of  Rhine Valley volcanic lava.


Views of Greifswald Harbour on the Hanseatic trade route


Leubeck Harbour 1350 - Hanseatic League

An idealistic scene which could become a nightmare for tiny ships during a storm.



The Weekly Fish Market.

An important event at every port - See the Galley with oars still in use during medieval times.



Hazards in the Medieval Era for the Hanseatic League.

The Black Death 1346 - 1353.

The "Great Pestilence"' or the "Great Plague" kept returning sporadically until the 18th century.

In 1665 the Great Plague of London killed 100,000 souls. The Plague is still with us even today.



 Warfare and Piracy at Sea was rife.

Early Cogs were used for trade and war and

 captains had to be capable of defending their cargos

    The city of Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea was famed for piracy under the leadership of the Victual Brothers. The name "Visby" comes from the Old Norse "Vis", the genitive singular of Vi the pagan place of sacrifices, and "by", meaning "village".  In the "Gutasagan" (mid 14th century) the place is referred to as just Wi meaning "holy place, place of worship", giving a tentative hint that Visby could be allied to the elusive WU trading block... Visby functioned as the leading centre in the Baltic, before the Hansa, on behalf of the Gotland, Livonia and Swedish regions. Sailing east, Visby merchants established a trading post at Novgorod called Gutagard, dealing in timber, furs, resin (or tar), flax, honey, wheat, and rye, however in 1525 Visby was in a feud with the Lübeckers, members of the Hanseatic League who burned down all Visby's churches except the cathedral. Control of trade was transferred to Riga.


A 16th century Scottish trading ship under attack from ships of the Hanseatic League.



Loading at Aberlady Bay in Scotland - 1560

Aberlady Bay was the UK's first Local Nature Reserve .. served by the East Lothian Council Rangers


 Dutch Customs Seals are a common find throughout the country. The obverse has a crowned Dutch shield bearing the rampant lion of Holland. The reverse has a number of the customs post and the letters R & A

meaning Regten en Accynsen (Customs and Excise). Some of these seals would be associated with flax but they were used for a variety of goods from 1815.

   Seals 343 & 215 were found among  flax seals and the black 343 on a nearby beach, commonly used in Scotland to unload bales. The 257 seal was found a mile from my home in the Yorkshire Dales.

R&A 645 - in the Project Collection



Copyright 2022 © Ged Dodd

 aka PeaceHavens Project

 Click here for the terms

 of free copy and share.