The Company of Merchants of the Staple is one of the oldest mercantile corporations in England.
It is rare, possibly unique, in being ‘of England‘ and not bounded by any city or municipality. It may trace its ancestry back as far as 1282 or even further. A group of 26 wool merchants apparently first started the Company. The Dukes of Burgundy and Counts of Flanders granted it charters. The Merchants were in Bruges in 1282, Dordrecht in 1285, Antwerp in 1296 and St Omer in 1313. The Company controlled the export of wool to the continent from 1314. The Duke of Flanders awarded a grant to the English Merchants in 1341. The Company’s commercial significance in the 14-16th centuries was in the control of the export of wool to the continent of Europe through Calais and later Bruges.
Today the Company runs a growing charitable trust with scholarships and projects in the wool, textiles and agricultural sectors, as well as university student travel bursaries. The Staple company has over 120 Freemen who meet and dine in Yorkshire and London. It is governed by its Court of Assistants; the Mayor serves for one year from the Michaelmas Court meeting in October.