As a consequence of the close commercial relations early existing between England and the Rhenish-Westphalian towns, the merchants of Cologne were the first to possess a gildhall in London and to form a "hansa" with the right of admitting other German merchants on payment of a fee.
It is worth noting that in a document connected with this action the union of towns, borrowing the term from English usage, was first called the "German Hansa."
This action was confirmed in 1366 by an assembly of the Hansa which at the same time, on the occasion of a regulation made by the Bruges counter and of statutes drawn up by the young Bergen counter, ordered that in future the approval of the towns must be obtained for all new regulations.
Under the pressure of commercial and political necessity, authority was definitely transferred from the Hansas of merchants abroad to the Hansa of towns at home, and the sense of unity had become such that in 1380 a Lubeck official could declare that "whatever touches one town touches all."
The governing body of the Hansa was the assembly of town representatives, the "Hansetage," held irregularly as occasion required at the summons of Lubeck, and, with few exceptions, attended but scantily.