Record

CodeNA4700
Dates1541-1847
Person NameVeere; 1541-1847; staple of
Epithetstaple of
ActivityThe town of Veere is in Zeeland, near Middelburg in the Netherlands. It has a small harbour which once gave direct access to the North Sea. Founded in 1296, Veere's first link with Scotland was formed when the Cistercian Abbot of Melrose received from the Count of Flanders the right to export Scottish wool into Flanders duty free. Soon after, Ada, sister of King William the Lion of Scotland, married Floris III, Count of Zeeland. In the 12th century wool production in Scotland and England began to outstrip the needs of the people. It was this that caused the monks of Melrose to seek to export Scottish wool duty free into Flanders. This right was formalised in 1407 by a decree of the Duke of Burgundy which created the office of Conservator of Scottish Privileges in the Low Countries. More and more wool was exported for manufacture into cloth in the Low Countries, France, and German towns on the North Sea and the Baltic. While Calais was for long the staple-port for English wool, Scottish wool was exported to Bruges, which thus became the first staple-port. (It also became the major centre for English wool after France recaptured Calais in 1558 and put an end to English occupation of the territory). Bruges' prosperity began to wane when its ports-of-entry at Damme and Sluis became unnavigable, and Antwerp took its place for a while as the centre of commerce for Flanders and Brabant.

Despite all the efforts of Bruges to retain the Scottish wool staple Sir Alexander Napier, the Conservator of Scottish Privileges, wisely transferred his office and staple-court to Middelburg in 1518. It provided useful revenue to the Scottish Crown for the monopoly of Scottish trade for the next twenty years. This move of the Conservator's office from Bruges to Middelburg was influenced by growing French and Spanish pressure to assert Catholicism in Flanders. When it began to be felt in Middelburg the staple was moved again in 1541 to Veere, where the local people were in sympathy with the Calvinist views of the Scottish trading community. A staple contract was drawn up which set out the privileges to be enjoyed by Scottish traders (who came mainly from Edinburgh, Perth, Culross, St. Andrews, Dundee and Aberdeen). In 1612 an agreement between King James VI and the Duke of Burgundy gave the Scots community their own kirk, manse, courthouse and lock-up, and an elegant washhouse which still remains.

Veere thus became in the 16th century the main (or 'staple') port for Scottish commerce with Flanders, Holland and Brabant. Wool was the major import (to be woven and then exported as fine cloth), and coal, tiles, leather, brassware, wines and spirits and, after 1630, shiploads of arms and ammunition for the Scottish and English armies were exported from Veere in Scottish ships to Leith, Culross and Newcastle. (The tiles were used for ballast in the ships that travelled to Scotland to collect freight. In Culross many roofs still give evidence to this. Culross still has an exhibition on Veere to remember the old contacts they had with the Dutch town. Even a small close in Culross is named after Veere: 'Veere Park'.) On the invasion of the Netherlands by the French Republican army at the end of the 18th century the Scottish community dwindled to fifteen souls, and the kirk was closed and finally demolished. The last minister, the Rev. James Likly of Aberdeen was ejected. With the ending of the Scottish Staple Veere's importance and prosperity declined.

From 1847 The British Consul in Rotterdam was the Conservator of Scottish Privileges, but in 1996 Winifred Ewing (member of the European Parliament for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland) was made Honorary Conservator of Scottish Privileges in Veere.
Corporate NameVeere
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