The Hostmen of Newcastle upon Tyne were a cartel of businessmen who formed a monopoly to control the export of coal from the River Tyne in North East England. They were so known from the medieval practice of "hosting", whereby local businessmen provided visiting merchants with accommodation and introduced them to local traders. The Hostmen acted as middlemen with whom the coal producers and those who shipped the coal to London and elsewhere were forced to deal.
From the time in the mid-13th century when coal began to be exported from the River Tyne, the burgesses of Newcastle tried to gain a monopoly over its export. In 1216, King John granted Newcastle the right to elect a mayor and also to form trade guilds. These guilds sought to ensure that trade in various commodities was concentrated in Newcastle. The desire of the Newcastle burgesses to monopolise trade on the Tyne led to a dispute with the Prior of Tynemouth regarding the shipment of coal from nearby settlement of North Shields, which was owned by the priory. In 1267 the mayor of Newcastle, Nicholas Scott attacked North Shields with a band of merchants, setting fire to several buildings. In 1290 the burgesses petitioned the King regarding North Shields and succeeded in suspending the export of coal, as well as other trade, from the new settlement. Henceforth, North Shields remained solely as a fishing port. In 1350 Edward III granted a licence to the Newcastle burgesses to excavate coal from Forth Banks and the Town Moor area. From 1446, shipments of coal from North Shields were permitted, but in 1530 a royal act confined all shipments of coal to Newcastle quayside, thereby giving the Newcastle burgesses the monopoly they desired. This reinforced a medieval monopoly granted by Henry I, which was still in place.
This society appears to have existed as a guild or fraternity in Newcastle upon Tyne from time immemorial; and by a clause in the Great Charter granted by Queen Elizabeth to that town, they were incorporated as a free and distinct fraternity. Forty-eight persons are named therein for the better loading and disposing of pit-coals and stones upon the Tyne, and for their own better support as a society, with the title of Governor, Stewards, and Brethren of the Fraternity of Hostmen in the Town of Newcastle upon Tyne's common seal is granted them. The governor and stewards are to be annually elected on the 4th of January. Power is given them to load and unload any where on the Tyne between Newcastle and Sparhawk, yet as near to Newcastle as they can. In return for these privileges, the Hostmen granted to her majesty and her heirs for ever, one shilling for every chaldron of coals shipped in the port of Tyne for home consumption.
In 1602, there were 28 acting Fitters or Hostmen; but in the next year, in consequence of a complaint made by the Twelve Mysteries, a number of persons belonging to these fraternities were, by an order of council, admitted Free Hosts. On May 6, 1618, an information was made in the Star Chamber against several Hostmen and Skippers of Newcastle upon Tyne, for adulterating coals. Judgment was given on this occasion against R. Bewic, J. Cole, R. Hodgson, W. Jennison, T. Hall, and H. Maddison, to be committed to the Fleet, and pay a fine of £20 each, to his majesty's use: the decree to be read in the open market at Newcastle upon Tyne, two several market-days.
During the reign of Charles I. great abuses and extortions crept into the coal trade, chiefly under royal authority. The civil war also injured this trade, and inflicted great calamities upon the city of London. The Hostmen paid 3d. per chaldron towards the support of the royal cause; and when the king was a prisoner in Newcastle, they defrayed one-half of the expense of the coals used by his majesty and his retinue.
The Hostmen, on June 21, 1659, were called upon, by order of the committee for preventing abuses in monopolies, to answer the complaints exhibited against them by Ralph Gardiner, Esq. In 1674, the Hostmen endeavoured to procure an act of parliament, to regulate the great abuses and exactions upon the collieries for their way-leaves and staith-rooms. A design of renewing the Hostmen's charter was opposed by the Twelve Mysteries of Newcastle, and nothing was effected. In 1682, the Hostmen of Newcastle made an order, that no one in future who was free of any of the Mysteries of that town, otherwise than by patrimony or servitude, should be admitted to the freedom of their society, unless by particular favour. The Hostmen, in 1690, made an order, that the custom of gift coals at London should be wholly laid aside. In 1697, the mayor of Newcastle granted a warrant to four persons to seize on coals, grind-stones, and rub-stones, sold by foreigners, i. e. those not free of the town and Hostmen's Company.
February 4, 1706, a fruitless attempt was made to rid the Hostmen of Newcastle of the duty of 12d. per chaldron, which had been granted by that society to Queen Elizabeth, and her successors, kings and queens of England, for ever. November 20, 1749, this fraternity made an order to repeal a former one, dated July 2, 1742, resolving thenceforth to admit any person free of the Mysteries according to the charter of James I. By another order on the same subject, dated May 22, 1751, it was enacted that each Mystery man, coming to be admitted a Free Hostman, should bring a certificate under the hands of the clerk or stewards of such Mystery.
Most probable date of Incorporation: 1600
T. R. Charlton
29 Tintagel Close