Monday, 10 April 2017

Delft H - History

Delft flourished and new neighbourhoods were added. As early as 1355 the city reached the size it would remain until the 19th century.

Click to enlarge. Delft in 1649 made by Blaeu


On the 3rd of May 1536 the great fire broke out. How it started exactly is not known, but it is likely that the wooden spire of the Nieuwe Kerk was hit by lightning and flying sparks set the surrounding houses on fire. Some 2,300 houses went up in flames. More than a hundred years later, in 1654, an explosion destroyed part of the city. The cellar of the former Poor Clares convent on Paardenmarkt was used to store gunpowder. This central warehouse for the region Holland contained some 80,000 pounds of gunpowder. The consequences of the explosion were enormous - two hundred houses were razed to the ground, and roofs fell in and windows were smashed in another three hundred houses. In 1660 a new gunpowder house was built about a mile outside the centre.

The Murder of William the Silent the Father of the Fatherlands

William of Orange, aka William the Silent had been leading the Netherlands agains the Spanish oppression. In 1582 there had been an attempt to murder him and it almost had killed him, he took a bullet in the cheek. In 1584 a Frenchman was coming to his court in Delft, by the name of Balthasar Gérards.
As William the Silent climbed the stairs to the second floor, he was spoken to by the Welsh captain, Roger Williams, who knelt before him. William put his hand on the bowed head of the old captain, at which moment Gérard jumped out of a dark corner. He drew his weapons and fired two shots at the stadtholder. William the Silent collapsed. His sister knelt beside him, but it was too late. Asked whether he commended his soul to Christ, he answered in the affirmative. His last words were, Mon Dieu, ayez pitié de moi et de mon pauvre peuple (My God, have mercy on me and on my poor people).
Gérard fled through a side door and ran across a narrow lane, pursued by Roger Williams. Gérard had almost reached the ramparts, from which he intended to jump into the moat. On the other side a saddled horse stood ready. A pig's bladder around his waist was intended to help keep him afloat. However, he stumbled over a heap of rubbish. A servant and a halberdier of the prince who had raced after him caught him. When called a traitor by his captors, he is said to have replied, "I am no traitor; I am a loyal servant of my lord." "Which lord?", they asked. "Of my lord and master, the king of Spain".

Trial, torture, and execution

At the house he immediately underwent a preliminary examination before the city magistrates. Upon being interrogated by the magistrates, he reportedly showed neither despair nor contrition, but rather a quiet exultation, stating: "Like David, he had slain Goliath of Gath."
At his trial, Gérard was sentenced to be brutally – even by the standards of that time – killed. The magistrates decreed that the right hand of Gérard should be burned off with a red-hot iron, that his flesh should be torn from his bones with pincers in six different places, that he should be quartered and disemboweled alive, his heart torn from his bosom and flung in his face, and that, finally, his head should be taken off. On 14 July 1584, Gérard was executed.

Dutch East India Company

More than 400 years ago the Dutch East India Company was founded. It was one of the largest trading companies in the world with a fleet of more than one hundred ships, thousands of employees, offices in Asia and six sites in the Netherlands, of which one in Delft. In 1602, Delft was a flourishing city, a centre of painting, arts, crafts and science. The foundation of the Dutch East India Company and the establishment of a branch in Delft added another important aspect - the trade with faraway countries. Spices, coffee, tea and Chinese porcelain now found their way to the Republic of the Netherlands and to Delft.

Knowledge and Culture

In 1842 the Netherlands lagged behind its neighbouring countries from an industrial point of view. The country required technically trained people, and therefore the Royal Academy for Civil Engineers was founded. The Academy used the building vacated by the artillery school. The Academy of then is the Technical University of today, which is also the largest employer in Delft. Some thirteen thousand students are registered with the TU in Delft. Delft is not just a city of culture, but also a city of knowledge. Not just because of the Technical University and TNO, but also because of the many knowledge-based institutes and companies - DSM Gist, the Dutch Normalisation Institute, the Dutch Measuring Institute, Exact Software, Delft Instruments etc. The Netherlands is world famous for its hydraulic engineering works. Students from all over the world come to the TU and the Unesco IHE to gain more knowledge. Large projects are simulated to scale in the WL/Hydraulics.


  1. Wow Han...that's some history. OMG...I do believe the magistrates were a tad bit on the angry side...that method of execution has me cringing. Sure didn't realize that the Netherlands is world famous for its hydraulic engineering works. That's awesome.

    Hugs and blessings...Cat

    1. Political murders, the lastest in the Netherlands was on Pim Fortuyn in 2002. The first on the Father of the Fatherlands, Willem the Silent. We were mad at the time, as I recall.


  2. So old country with amazing history..
    I live read it, Han.

    Mona Lisa

    1. Glad you like it Mona Lisa, we are a little proud of the old city,



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