Delft

Introduction to Delft

City of Delft Crest

City of Delft Crest

Delft is a charming city in the province of Zuid-Holland (South Holland)compact with a fine and well preserved old city center with some good examples of old Dutch Architecture, two glorious churches and a wonderful cafe life. Situated between Den Haag and Rotterdam and served by the public transport systems of both cities it is easy to get to. It’s town center is full of many fine independent stores, art and craft establishments as well as the world famous Delft pottery factory.

As my youngest son once remarked after a day in the city “It is like Amsterdam in miniature but much easier to walk around”.  With it’s own canal network, guided tours, and boat tours he is right. It is a place you really can relax in.

History Of Delft

Delft started as a small settlement around the year 1200 and after a period of rapid growth the city reached it’s peak size about 1355 and then held at that size until the middle of the 19th century. In 1246 it received it’s charter from the Earl Willem II. The city owes its name to the world ‘delving’, digging the oldest canal, the Oude Delft, pictures of which you can see on this page.

the 3rd of May 1536 the Great Fire Of delft broke out. It is not known exactly how it started but at that time the Nieuwe Kerk had a wooden spire and it is thought that it was hit by lightning and flying sparks set the surrounding houses on fire. Some 2,300 properties were destroyed by the fire which was the greater proportion of the houses at that time.


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A hundred years later disaster struck again when in 1654, a gunpowder explosion destroyed part of the city. The cellar of the former “Poor Clares” convent on Paardenmarkt was used to store gunpowder for the entire region. As a result it contained some 35,000 kilo (80,000 pounds) of gunpowder. The explosion was huge and two hundred houses were razed to the ground. Hundreds of others had their roofs fall in and windows were smashed in another three hundred houses (glass was still hugely expensive at this time). When the gunpowder store was rebuilt in 1660 a it was built about a two kilometers outside the city.

Willem van Oranje & The 80 Years War

The city came to prominence when Willem van Oranje (William Of Orange), nicknamed Willem de Zwijger (William The Silent), took up residence in 1572. William was our country’s most important leader during the time in the struggle against the occupying Spanish, during a period called the Eighty Years War. As a military headquarters Delft became one of the leading cities of Holland. City walls were constructed for defence.

When William was shot to death in 1584 by Balthazar Gerards in the hall of the Prinsenhof, his family’s traditional burial place inBreda was in the hands of the occupying Spanish, as a result he was buried in the Nieuwe Kere (New Church). Ever since all members of the House Of Orange have been laid to rest in Delft.

Trade City Of Delft

The famous Dutch East India Company was founded some 400 years ago and quickly established a branch office in Delft. It was one of the largest trading companies in the world at that time with a fleet of more than one hundred ships and offices in Asia and six sites in the Netherlands. With Delft a flourishing city, a centre of painting, arts, crafts and science in the 1600’s the city was a natural location for the company. Spices, coffee, tea and Chinese porcelain came flooding into the Republic of the Netherlands, now free from the Spanish, and to Delft.

Technical University (TU) & Unesco IHE

By the mid 19th century  the Netherlands lagged behind its neighbouring countries from an industrial development point of view. The country was in dire need of technically trained people in order to develop it’s economy. As a result the Royal Academy for Civil Engineers was founded and located in Delft. The academy built on the Dutch skills of land reclamation and water management. Today it has become the Technical University (TU) and is the largest employer in Delft. Some thirteen thousand students from nearly forty countries are registered with the TU in Delft with more growth planned. The Netherlands is world famous for its hydraulic and environmental engineering.

Delft is home to UNESCO-IHE, the Institute For Water Education. The IHE carries out Research, Education and Capacity Building Activities in the fields of Water and the Environment. The Institute is based in Delft, the Netherlands, and is owned by all UNESCO member states. It is established as a UNESCO ‘category I’ institute jointly by UNESCO and the Government of the Netherlands. The Institute is the largest water education facility in the world, and the only institution in the UN system authorised to confer accredited MSc degrees. Students from the all over the world come to the TU and also the Unesco IHE to gain more knowledge. Facilities at these institutes as such that they can simulated to scale project in the WL/Hydraulics labs.

Famous Delft People

  • 1572 William of Orange sets up his headquarters in the city but in 1584 he is murdered by Balthazar Gerards in Het Prinsenhof. The Prinsenhof, previously a monastery, was fitted up in 1575 as a residence for the princes of Orange and was afterwards long used as a barrack. The building has been restored and is open to the public.
  • 1629 Piet Heijn, conqueror of the Spanish Silver Fleet, is given a mausoleum in the Oude Kerk.
  • 1632 Johannes Vermeer is born and is baptised in the Nieuwe Kerk; as a painter he goes on to become world famous.
  • 1645 Hugo de Groot (also known as Hugo Grotius), legal scholar, dies. He laid the foundations for international law, which is why this country is the home of the international court today.

Delft Links

City Of Delft: www.delft.nl

Delft University Of Technology : www.tudelft.nl

Delft Tourism: www.delfttoerisme.nl

Delftse Pauw: www.delftpottery.com

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