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A Timeline of the City of Delft: 1100-1836*

View of Delft
Jan Brueghel (II)
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Pencil on paper, 20.3 x 40 cm.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

A Timeline of The City of Delft: 1100-1836*

  • The city of Delft is born beside a canal, the Delf, a term which derives from the Dutch word delven, meaning to "delve " or "dig."
  • After conquering Holland, around 1075, Godfrey III, Duke of Lower Lorraine (c. 997–1069) establishes his manor on an elevated point where the Delf crosses the creek wall of the silted-up Gantel creek system (the largest tidal creek during the Late Iron Age and Roman period). While the land around Delft is good for grazing and for cultivating grains, the abundance of running water in the city will eventually allow two major industries to flourish: textile manufacturing and beer brewing. However, the combination of these two industries will also cause problems. The textile industry pollutes Delft's clean water, which is an essential ingredient for beer. 
  • Around 1100, the Oude Delft is dug up in order to widen a section of the Gantel creek system and drain the surrounding land. When a second canal is dug parallel to the Delf at the end of the 12th century, the names Oude Delft and Nieuwe Delft are given to them (the latter nowadays bears successively the street named Lange Geer, Koornmarkt, Wijnhaven, Hippolytusbuurt and Voorstraat). The land between the Oude Delft and Nieuwe Delft is raised with clay during the digging of the Nieuwe Delft. The remaining sandy ridge between the two canals is firm enough for driving the poles to build houses on. This forms the basis of the city . In the Golden Age, this higher-lying land in the center of the swampy city becomes a popular place to live for wealthy merchants. Many mansions, often the status of national monument, are still found on the Oude Delft. From a rural village Delft develops into a small city. Delft becomes an important market town, proven by the size of its central market square.
  • In 1200, the Stadhuis  (City Hall) is built. It survives various expansions and renovations in the 1500s, and the city fire in 1536.
  • The oldest known brewery in The Netherlands, Heilige Geestkerkhof, dates to 1210.
  • In the 13th century, the Vliet waterway between Delft and The Hague is already heavily trafficked. In theory it is possible to sail from the north end of Delft all the way to Leiden. From there one could travel to Haarlem and Amsterdam via the Haarlemmermeer, or to Utrecht via the Oude Rijn. But there is an important obstacle in between them: the Leidschendam, over which larger ships have to transfer their cargo to barges on the other side. Moreover, the owners of the dam demand a fee.
  • On 15 April, 1246, Count Willem II of Holland (1227–1256) grants Delft its city charter extending basic rights of self-government to the approximately 1,400 people living there, marking the official beginning of the city. Trade and industry continue to flourish. Delft is then composed of three original grachten (inner-city canals) now called the Oude Delft, Nieuwe Delft, and the Braantse Turftmarkt, Burgwal, and Verwersdijk. The charter exempts Delft's citizens from paying tolls in Willem's county, which gives a huge boost to trade. More importantly: the Delft residents will have a large degree of self-government in the field of regulations and law. The bailiff and seven aldermen may issue ordinances and try transgressions themselves. Initially, this city law only applies to the area of ​​the Nieuwe Delft, which is the canal along the current Koornmarkt, Wijnhaven, Hippolytusbuurt and Voorstraat. In 1268, the residents along the Oude Delft receive the same privileges.
  • A weekly market is mentioned in city law as early as 1246, was held at Marktveld, and to this day it is held on the same day and in the same place.  It is operated by or on behalf of Count Willem II of Holland , whose stewards collect money from the merchants who sell their wares there. The Count also owns the weigh house, the cloth hall and other buildings that are crucial to the economy of Delft. As the name suggests, Marktveld (market + field) was not paved, and since the terrain is relatively low, rain must have turned it into a plain of mud.   
  • In 1246, the Oude Kerk (Old Church) is founded as St. Bartholomew's Church on the site of previous churches dating back up to two centuries earlier. The tower with its central spire and four corner turrets is added between 1325–1350. In the same year the June market of Delft begins.
  • In 1268 Floris V, Count of Holland extends the city Delft to the other side of the Oude Delft. The Count's permission specifies an exact distance from the Oude Delft between the Dirklangensteeg (then the Arnoudt Snemenbrug) and the Binnenwatersloot. Its eastern limit later becomes the bank of the singel, or outer moat.
  • As far back as the Middle Ages, streets in Delft are indicated by names to make it easy to find a particular house or its resident. The oldest known street name of Delft is Oude Delft, which already appears in a document from 1268. For centuries names rise and disappear by themselves. Everyday usage determines a street's name: soil conditions (think of the Rietveld); shape (Bree (d) street), ; age (Oude and Nieuwe Langendijk) of an important building (Gasthuislaan, Oude Kerkstraat); activity (Voldersgracht, Verwersdijk, Smitsteeg) or a well-known resident (Dirklangenstraat, Harmenkokslaan, Jacob Gerritstraat).
  • In 1286, the Bagijnhof is founded by a group of lay religious women who lived in community without taking vows or retiring from the world, called beguines. Since Bagijnhof is privately owned the beguines are allowed to continue to live there after the Reformation takes hold of Delft, when all the Catholic monasteries present in the city will be destroyed or closed..  The Bagijnhof later becomes a stronghold of Roman Catholicism with two schuilkerken (secret churches).
  • Around 1300, an outer moat is dug as part of Delft's defenses.
  • Around 1300, a dam, called the Leytsche Dam, is constructed in the Vliet between Delfland and Rijnland to protect Delft against flooding, as part of the Sijtwende (flood defense). Unfortunately, it —the polder level in Rijnland is on average about 1 meter higher than that in Delfland—also has a negative effect because it prevents Delft from building a direct waterway connection to northern cities, such as Leiden, Haarlem and Amsterdam. It will have a profound influence on the development of the area and will eventually become the cause of many disputes between surrounding cities.
  • In the 1300- and 1400s, an impressive number of decorated and illuminated manuscripts are produced in Delft.
  • Although the Zeevisch-Markt (Fish Market) building bears a plaque reading 1342, it was probably not founded in that year. Fish was already a substantial part of the menu for the first inhabitants of Delft, and it had already been traded for centuries in the surrounding areas.
  • In 1347, Margaretha van Beieren (1363–1424) grants permission to expand the Oude Delft> .
  • In 1348, the Voldersgracht and the Langendijk running east-west between the Nieuwe Delft gracht and the Oosteinde gracht complete the delineation of Markt Plein (Market Square) balanced on either end by the Stadhuis and the Nieuwe Kerk.
  • On January 1, 1350, the tower of Oude Kerk is completed, but it already leans. While the construction continues the builders attempt to compensate and straighten the inclination of the bell tower floor by floor. Today only the spires alone are truly straight. At the time, the 75-meters high tower dominated the surrounding landscape until it was overcome in the1600s by the construction of the Nieuwe Kerk. Citizens of Delft affectionately refer to the church as Oude Jan (Old Jan ) or Scheve Jan (Crooked Jan).
  • In 1355, Willem V of Holland (1350-1389) grants the citizens of Delft permission to build bulwarks of earth around the area that the city had the rights to administer. The bulwarks are made from sand, clay and silt accumulated when the waterways were dug. They are topped by stone and brick walls. The wide waterway ringing the bulwarks becomes known as the singel (belt). It is soon followed by completion of the first two city gates at the north and south end of the Oude Delft, the only navigable waterways into and out of the growing city. By this year Delft had the same boundaries and inner waterways that it would have three hundred years later .
  • In 1381, construction of the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) begins, following a miraculous appearance of the Virgin in 1381. Initially the church was built of wood. Three years later, construction begins in stone, in Gothic style, which will be completed in 1430.  Construction of the stone tower continues for a century, between 1396 and 1496. When finished, it is 109 meters high.  The nave and aisles are finished in the 1430s, the choir in 1476. The name of the architect is unknown. The original stained glass windows are destroyed in the 16th  and 17th centuries. 
  • In 1389, the city of Delft receives permission from Albert I, Duke of Bavaria (German; 1336–1404), the feudal ruler of Holland, to dig its own connection between the Schie and the Merwede (nowadays the Maas River), which furnishes and outlet to the Atlantic Ocean. In these years Delft depends heavily on trade, especially the export of dairy and beer to Brabant, Zeeland and Flanders: delays in shipping prove disastrous for such perishable goods. In addition, raw materials must be imported to keep the local economy thriving. At the point where the canal crosses Schielands Hoge Zeedij Delft founds its own harbor: Delfshaven. Until then ships had to sail to or from Delft, through Rotterdam or Schiedam. However, this route was winding, and inter-city conflicts sometimes closed the vital passage of goods. When the canal is finished, Delft is able to send and receive seafaring vessels and avoid tolls levied by Rotterdam. In the same year Duke Albrecht I establishes an elected water board. The project takes years to realize.

    But the canal is an enormous and complicated undertaking. Part of the Schie from Delft to Overschie could be used for the canal system, but some must be dug. Land must be purchased from many different owners; digging is done by hand. Quays are built on both sides of the canal and a settlement is built at the mouth.
  • In 1394, Duke Albrecht I gives the citizens of Delft permission to build a new city wall.
  • In 1396, the construction of the Schiedam and Rotterdam Gates begins. It will take until after 1514 before they are completed.
  • Due to the scarcity of wood, from the 15th century the Netherlands is largely dependant on veer (peat) for or fuel. Peat is formed when dead plant material –especially from mosses– accumulates over time. When compressed and dried, it becomes turf, which makes an excellent fuel that burns slow and heats well without much smoke. The demand for peat in Delft is so intense that the surrounding countryside is unable to meet it, being as it is indispensable for energy supply; from domestic use to baker's ovens. Moreover, in Delft the most important economic sectors, brewery and pottery, are huge energy guzzlers. Tons of peat had to be brought in by ship. By the end of the 19th century, peat is replaced by coal. 
  • At the end of the 14th century, the Meisjeshuis is founded by well-known Delft resident. The building is initially called Heilige-Geestzustershuis (Holy Spirit Sister House), in which nurses took care of sick people. In 1587it is transformed into an orphanage for poor girls. The orphanage has workshops and learning quarters where girls study religion, crafts, cooking and mathematics.
  • Around 1400, the Oostpoort (Eastern gate) is built. It is the only remaining gate of the old city walls. Around 1510, the towers are enhanced with an additional octagonal floor and high spires. At this time Delft has around 6,500 inhabitants.
  • By the 1400's, the shape of the  binnenstad, or inner city, of Delft comprises everything within the surrounding moat, which is wider than the canals inside the city. The city is roughly rectangular, about 1.6 km long .8 km. wide. The inner sides of the city's protective embankments are made of earth and brick wall covered with thorn bushes. A number of windmills stand even taller than the embankments' towers, providing clear views of the surrounding countryside. Four of the gates are situated at the ends of major inter-city canals. For tax purposes, the city is divided into sixteen districts, for defensive purposes, four districts. The city gates are not open day and night. When dusk falls, the large doors are locked and cannot be opened again until sunrise. On Sundays and public holidays, the gates are closed during the sermon, so that the peace in the city is not disturbed. Only pedestrians can get in and out via the small door or latch—but no more horses, wagons or carriages. Gatekeepers, who work in a and night shift, supervise who enters or leaves the city. 
  • Around 1400, the a group of women in Delft choose a spiritual life, and move from Geerweg to a house on Oude Delft, behind the tower of the Oude Kerk. Shortly afterward, they decide to close themselves off from the outside world as a monastic community in order to fill their lives with prayer, in absolute obedience to the leader, the mater (mother), without personal belongings, and unmarried. They found the Agathaklooster (Convent of Saint Agatha) with the help of wealthy citizens in Delft, adopting the rules of the third order of Saint Francis. In 1402, they are placed under the protection of the count of Holland, Duke Albert of Bavaria. The bishop of Utrecht, as head of Delft's diocese, formally establishes the convent in 1403. The Agathaklooster flourishes in the late 1400s, becomes the richest monetary in Delft earning the right to house 125 nuns, who mostly come from patrician families. It also receives many   distinguished guests in its guesthouse. Eight nuns still live in the cloister in 1607. The last of them is buried in 1640.
  • Delft pottery originates in the early 1400s. At this moment very simple pottery is being produced in various places in the Netherlands, in small pottery factories established where clay is found and where there is good supply of peat or wood for firing the kilns. Initially the factories are only located in the west of Holland, but later spread throughout the country. In order to make these simple pottery objects, the clay, which is modeled in the desired shape, is first fired, creating a red/brown finish. Afterward the objects are sometimes decorated with patterns in contrasting color schemes, with paint made of watery clay or slip. They are then given a transparent lead glaze and fired again to make them watertight and easier to keep clean. This lead glaze is relatively expensive and therefore the early pieces of pottery are only glazed on the places which could become easily dirty, such as a spout or at the bottom or the inside.
  • In 1436, Delft acquire the rights to the Marktveld from Duke Philip of Burgundy. The city council can now decide how the space is used and arranged. In 1484 the entire Marktveld was raised about one meter and paved.
  • On September 7, 1445, Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy (French: 1396–1467), issues a charter (Privilegie) for Delft city fathers, the vroedschap, to appoint the first Veertigraad, a 40-member council of the richest, most honorable, most notable men from regent families to help the schout (sheriff) and schepenen (magistrates) govern the city. The Veertigraad gradually cedes city management to the burgemeesters and pensionaris. Typically, a young man born into a regent family would replace a father or older brother who died or, after the 1618 reorganization, turned the mandatory retirement age of 70.
  • Around 1450, the St. Ursula Monastery is founded. The number of monasteries within the walls of Delft come to ten, while there are two more outside the city walls: Koningsveld, and the monastery Sion to the north of the city.
  • In 1470, about 5% of the Delft population live in monasteries, which occupies about 8% of the urban space.
  • In 1477, the first Bible in Dutch is published in Delft, and it is much smaller than the Gutenberg Bible, as only the Old Testament is printed. Yet its almost 1,300 pages require publication in two folio volumes. The text is an anonymous adaptation of an—again anonymous—translation. It is the first book to be printed by Jacob Jacobszoon van der Meer and Mauricius Yemantszoon van Middelburg, but the printer-financier relationship between the two is not clear. 
  • In 1484 the entire Marktveld is raised about one meter and paved.
  • In the later part of the 15th century Haarlem and Delft develop their own version of a strong beer imported from Germany. Gouda specializes in a lighter, cheaper beer. Other Dutch towns soon imposed excise taxes of beer from Gouda and Delft, just as these towns had done with German beer.
  • In the 16th century, the reputation of the monasteries among the population declines. Apart from the religious unrest caused by the reformation movement, many Delft people feel that there are too many monasteries, and during the many years of economic setback and famine people, disapprove of the tax benefits that these institutions enjoy.
  • Around 1500, there is a religious boom. Delft had two large parish churches, each with dozens of altars. About one hundred and fifty priests earn a good living with masses and other ceremonies, in the service of the churches, brotherhoods, guilds or wealthy families.
  • In 1503, a cult arises in the Oude Kerk in relation to a statue of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows. This devotion is stimulated by Duke Philip the Fair, who hopes to promote the sentiment of unity in the Netherlands by means of a "national" cult for he Virgin Mary. In Delft the principal protagonist  is Dirck Adamszoon van der Burch, vice-pastor of the Oude Kerk. He reports in letters to the court which miracles had occurred and how devotion had thrived. Pilgrims come from far and wide to partake in special masses, sermons and processions. 
  • In the 1500s, the municipal government and churches of Delft are more inclined to commission works of art from masters established in other cities than from those active locally. This is largely a consequence of the increasing importance of the Oude Kerk and the Nieuwe Kerk, which require objects grander and more public in nature than those produced by cloistered monks and nuns.
  • In 1514, the population of Delft is 10,700.
  • Around 1520, the renovation of the Oude Kerk comes to a standstill due to a lack of money. The colossal north aisle of the otherwise austere architecture marks the end of the rich Roman life of the Middle Ages.
  • On May 3, 1536, a large part of the city is destroyed by the Great Fire of Delft. The fire is said to be caused by a bolt of lighting that strikes the tower of Nieuwe Kerk, although some Delft historians believe may be confused with another event, on Ascension Day in 1441, when lightning struck the still unfinished tower. An alternative version has it that on the day of the fire there was a strong westerly wind. A farmyard fire on the Buitenwatersloot may have gotten out of hand and pieces of burning hay, straw or reed were blown into the air. One house after another caught fire and the fire spread quickly eastward, up and over the city wall. The Oude Kerk caught fire because the roof was then made of thatched hay.  Part of the wooden tower is burned down. The organ, bells and the stained-glass windows are lost. Fanned by a strong east wind, the fire ravages virtually everything west of the Nieuwe Kerk (houses of the time are mainly built with timber). Hundreds of families leave the city. Delft rebuilds with stone instead of wood. Only a few buildings standing today pre-date the fire.
  • In 1536, the population of Delft is 15,000.
  • In 1537, the plague strikes Delft. Over 2,000 people die.
  • In the 1540s and 1550s, stately houses go up around the Groote Markt (Great Market Square) near the Nieuwe Kerk, along the Oude Delft canal, and in other neighborhoods where many dwellings had been burned down during the Great Fire. They change little in plan, but their street facades orgevels—in Holland the "gables" rise from the ground—were constructed almost exclusively of stone, in a mixture of Late Gothic and Renaissance styles .The new house built along tree-lined canals, where Delft's rich burgers lived, prompt the common people to quip: "they sit on cushions and rule the city." In this period property owners in Delft, including those residing in the wealthier streets on the west side, would have been more concerned with roofs, walls, and stone facades than with home decoration.
  • In the second half of the 1500s, Delft's two major industries, brewing and textile manufacture, decline sharply primarily because of competition from other towns and a spirit of free enterprise that does away with medieval systems of protecting trade. Moreover, the two products are also incompatible in that one polluted and the other required clean water. A number of other occupations, such as spinning, weaving, tailoring, peat-cutting, carting, shipping depend upon the production of cloth and beer.
  • Between 1557 and 1558, the plague strikes again. About six thousand people in Delft, or 20 percent of the population, die. According to the physician Pieter van Foreest (1521–1597), one of the most prominent physicians of the Dutch Republic, the plague that came to Delft in 1557 originated with the farmers from the surrounding countryside who supplied the town with produce.
  • Between 1558 to 1595, Pieter van Foreest, one of the Netherlands' greatest doctors, is Delft's doctor. While his colleagues base their practices on theories from classical antiquity, he modernizes medical practices, publishing hundreds of case histories and describing in detail treatments and results. The University of Leiden, founded in 1575, engages him to set up the medical training. He manages to persuade the city council of Delft to draw up rules for the practice of medical professions and prevent quackery. He becomes the personal physician to William of Orange and performs the investigation after the prince is murdered in 1584.
  • In 1560, the Vleeshal, or Meat Hall is constructed. New neighborhoods other civic buildings made during the early to mid-seventeenth century further contribute to Delft's distinctive character. Much of the city's attraction for the visitors comes from the fact that the squares and canals were bordered by buildings that date mostly from about 1550 to 1650. The population of Delft is 10,700.
  • In the mid-1560s, two great Dutch painters work in Delft: Maerten van Heemskerck (1498-1574) and Jan van Scorel (1495-1562).
  • In 1565, a poor corn harvest strikes Delft.
  • In 1566, the Beeldenstor ( in Dutch, roughly "image storm" or "statue storm") spreads to Delft, destroying many artworks in public and religious places. The Convent of Saint Agatha, however, is well protected and is spared.
  • In 1572, William of Orange (Willem van Oranje; (1533– 1584) of the House of Orange takes up residence in the former Convent of Saint Agatha, today's Het Prinsenhof. By then, Delft is one of the leading cities of Holland and is equipped with the necessary city walls to serve as a headquarters.
  • 15681648: duration of the Eighty Years War. Delft is at the time one of the largest and most powerful cities in Holland. Early in the War Protestant noblemen led by Willem of Orange who desired to overthrow Spanish rule styled themselves as Watergeuzen (Sea Beggars). In early July they make their way north, capturing city by city. By the end of the summer Delft joins the revolt, which soon include the six largest cities of Holland : Dordrecht, Haarlem, Delft, Leiden, Gouda. Amsterdam is the last to join.
  • In 1572, Delft joins the Revolt against Spain and shortly after Calvinists take over the parish churches, abolish monasteries and force priests and monks to renounce their faith or to leave the city. Much of the Catholic heritage is destroyed or burned.
  • In October 1573, an attack by Spanish forces is repelled in the Capture of Delfzijl (The Battle of Delft). The battle was fought by a small Anglo-Dutch force under Thomas Morgan and an attacking Spanish force under Francisco de Valdez (Spanish; 1522? – 1580?). The attack on the city had been defeated, and the Spanish had lost in all around 700 men, mostly on the outskirts.  Delft, amongst other Dutch towns and cities, had been saved, and this meant that Leiden had better hope of relief. After these attempts, Valdez informed the Duke of Alba of his defeat, showing him that victory could not be achieved without a larger force along with siege artillery. The Spanish were repelled and forced to retreat. ]In the same year The Kolk, which is a canalized watercourse on the south-western corner of the city walls, takes its initial triangular form from a bastion that had been constructed in 1573, when the city fortifications were modernized.
  • After the Act of Abjuration is proclaimed in 1581, Delft becomes the de facto capital of the newly independent Netherlands, as the seat of the Prince of Orange.
  • In 1583, the Dutch humanist, diplomat, lawyer, theologian and jurist Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) is born in Delft. He lays the foundations for international law, and his concept of natural law will have a strong impact on the philosophical and theological debates and political developments of the 17th and 18th centuries
  • On 10 July, 1584, William is shot dead by the Roman Catholic, zealot Balthazar Gerards, in the Prinsenhof. Since the family's traditional burial place in Breda is still in the hands of the Spanish, he is buried in the Delft Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), inaugurating a tradition for the House of Orange that has continued to the present day. Willem's dream of religious tolerance is short-lived. Violence forces Catholics to give up their place of worship. Roman Catholic churches are seized sacked. Works of art and liturgical objects that express of "Popish idolatry" are destroyed in the iconoclastic fury. Catholics and adherents of other banned religions must resort to hidden and illegal churches, in existing buildings. Initially, authorities take action against this phenomena. Later governments take an increasingly pragmatic stance since had become clear that a large part of the population would never join the Reformed Church—many government officials embrace the official church only in order to maintain their job and social position. The use of hidden churches was therefore increasingly allowed.  Around this time, Delft also occupies a prominent position in the field of printing. A number of Italian glazed earthenware makers settled in the city and introduce a new style.
  • At the end of the 16th century the status of Delft as a military stronghold has declined. By that time, the front gate of the Schiedam is already in ruin, and in 1590-1591, extensive renovations are carried out.
  • In 1592, a citizen of Antwerp, carpet and tapestry weaver François Spierinx (c.1576?-1630?), flees persecution in Antwerp and establishes his business in Delft. Delft offer him the vacant Saint Agnes Convent, near the East Gate, free of charge in order to stimulate the local tapestry business. Soon great numbers of "embroiderers" and "tapestry-workers" flock from the South. Richly decorated pieces only appeared at the end of the seventeenth century.  However, this imported textile industry was only a moderate success. Other than Spierinx, few Delft cloth traders become rich. The industry is primarily intended to keep the poorest of the population off the street and offer women and children a meager additional income.
  • In 1592, Moijses van Nederveen receives permission from the Delft city council to set up a powder mill outside the Waterslootsepoort, just across the border from Delft in Vrijenban, roughly at the location of the current Kogelgieterij. In the powder mill, nitre, sulfur and coal were mixed with horsepower to form gunpowder. This was a dangerous process. The mill exploded in 1604 and again in 1742.
  • In 1596, the painter Leonaert Bramer (1596–1674) is born in Delft. He creates genre, religious, and history paintings and will become close to the family of Johannes Vermeer.
  • At the end of the16th century, the city council officially establishes a few street names for the first time. It concerns four streets on the site of the former Sint-Ursula monastery at Gasthuislaan. Because many Flemish textile workers live there, they are named after the cities of Tournai, Lille, Ypres and Bruges.
  • In 1601, a group of twelve merchants and manufacturers of Delft decided to ready a ship for a voyage to the East Indies; the following year, however, the States General force all the existing overseas trading companies to form a single Dutch East India Company, putting an end to the competition between them.
  • In 1602 , the VOC (Dutch East India Company) is founded as the world's first shareholders' company. It is an amalgamation of small independent trading companies to which the States-General of the Dutch Republic gives far-reaching privileges. The most important of these is a monopoly on all trade east of the Cape of Good Hope. The company's main goal is to acquire a share of the profitable trade wade in spices, textiles and precious metals produced in this vast region, which include Persia and India, the Malaysian Peninsula, the Indonesian archipelago, China and Japan.The VOC consists of six Chambers (Kamers) in port cities: Amsterdam, Delft, Rotterdam, Enkhuizen, Middelburg and Hoorn. The company rapidly becomes the largest employer in the republic, and the expansion of its power is felt immediately, even in the smaller participating cities. Delft, with a total investment of 469,400 guilders, is one of the smaller chambers. Although Delft is inland, it has access to the Atlantic Ocean through the port city of Delfshaven, a municipality of Delft, thereby allowing the import of vast quantities of precious Chinese porcelain.
  • In 1620, only about one-fourth of the population of Delft belonged to the Reformed Church. The city harbors many Catholics and Mennonites as well as a range of religious minorities. Many citizens, however, prefer to remain unaffiliated with any church. Protestants and Catholics participate equally in many areas of public life in Delft: for example, in the guilds, which regulated economic life, and in the civic-guard companies.
  • In the beginning of the 17th century, century there are about 100 breweries in Delft.
  • Between 1602 and 1680, the Delft chamber of the VOC alone sends out eighty-two ships, in sizes ranging from about one to six hundred tons. Managers of the company maintain a yacht at the quay just west of the Schiedam Gate. The boat runs back and forth to Delfshaven., where ships returning from the East are unloaded into the small damlopers (dam runners) that carried the goods to warehouses in Delft. Since the decline in the brewery industry, Delft investors begin to seek new ventures in land, government loans and shares of the VOC.
  • On May 29, 1611, the Guild of Saint Luke is founded although the guild had existed long before. It was named after its patron saint the Evangelist Luke. According to legend the evangelist had painted a portrait of the Virgin Mary. Further, Luke’s gospel is known as the most visual account in the Bible, including details and atmosphere. In Delft, as in every other artistic center, artists and artisans came together primarily to limit the import of artworks from outside the city. The guild system is designed to improve the crafts and protect their quality. Members are required to pass a compulsory master’s test, which guaranteesthe quality of the products and kep them at a high level. Other protective measures are used to combat the increase in counterfeit goods and control foreign imports.  For example, this is accomplished by allowing only painters belonging to the guild to sell paintings. The board of the guild comprises six members (two potters, two stained-glass artists and two painters) under the leadership of a dean who was a member of the council of forty, a municipal advisory body. The painters are the most influential members. Membership of the guild brings along benefits as well as obligations and rules. A member is not allowed to take over another member's job except for in cases of force majeure such as illness or drunkenness. A simple sick benefit system existed, providing income and medical aid in case a member got seriously ill. Members are expected to attend at funerals of other members. Fees and fines for trespassing these rules were collected by a footman.
  • In 1613, the States General contracted Spierinx to produce a series of grand tapestries for the sum of 16,933 guilders. On May 17, 1616, Karel van Mander (1548 –1606) rents a house belonging to the St. Anna convent for this purpose. Spierinx owns an art collection which boasted fine prints and drawings including works from Italy and a superb collection of the painter Lucas van Leiden (1494–1533).
  • In 1614, the Kolk is dug up to create a more functional harbor.
  • In 1614, is a milestone in the development of Delft poverty relief, which would be imitated in many other cities and given a place in the history books as the Delft model. Until then, it had been impossible to prevent poverty and begging. Attempts were made to employ the poor in the textile sector, but the number of poor is far too large and the earnings are very low. Moreover, not everyone was able to work. In 1614 the city council takes a drastic step. The burdens of the deaconate and the Holy Spirit are taken over and placed entirely in the Chamber of Charitate. The city is then divided into six well-organized districts, each with a deacon and a charity master, who keep an eye on the needy.
  • In 1614, the city council granted the surgeons' guild permission to set up an anatomy room in the baptistery of the Oude Kerk, with trained and competent thirteen surgeons . Their guild is supervised by the university-trained physicians employed by the city or the hospital, no more than three or four in number. The surgeons gather in the Oude Kerk for more than four decades, until they move into a new space in 1656.
  • On August 1, 1616, riots break out in the city in protest of a new excise tax on corn. The civic guard is called out but has trouble organizing due to the crowded streets. After this, the civic guard is re-organized geographically into four districts in bands stretching across the city, instead of by type of weapon.
  • On March 3 to March 4, 1618, Delft City Hall burns down. Everything is destroyed except the limestone tower, with its bells are melted beyond repair—that are re-cast for the Nieuwe Kerk's first bells in 1660. According to witness statements in the Orphanage Room, the night before, the fire was not extinguished properly and so flared up at night, with disastrous consequences. The floor of the Orphanage Room collapses into the Secretariat. Civilians rush to save what can be saved and manage to bring precious paintings and piles of papers to safety, but much was lost. Eventually, the entire town hall burns down, except for the heavy stone towers. It is rebuilt in Dutch Renaissance style form, after a design by Hendrick de Keyser (1565-1621), who also designed Prince Willem's mausoleum in the Nieuwe Kerk.
  • In 1618, the Delft mintmaster and brewer Melchior Wyntgis (15??–1626 or later) draws up an inventory of his art collection in Brussels, which contains 170 paintings, whose total value he estimated at more than 12,500 guilders. A large number of them were by masters from the southern Netherlands, and the whole collection gives the impression of being an art dealer's stock in trade.
  • On 1 August, 1620, the Pilgrim fathers leave Delfshaven with the Speedwell. Since then, the town's Oude Kerk has also been known as the Pelgrimskerk ( Pilgrim Fathers Church).
  • From the 1620s, earthenware producers in Delft, Haarlem and probably Rotterdam attempt to make high quality imitations of Chinese porcelain. However, it is only after a prolonged period of experimentation that they succeeded in making thin, light, white-glazed earthenware decorated in blue in the Chinese style.
  • In 1621, the Bank of Delft established.
  • In 1621, an English trading company known as the Merchant Adventurers is persuaded to establish its headquarters in Delft. This means that the city now has an import monopoly on undyed English woolen cloth; moreover, the activities involved in processing and transporting the cloth to other parts of the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe are expected to provide new jobs in Delft.
  • In 1620, the Kolk is completed.
  • In 1622, Delft has 20,150 inhabitants; in 1680 approximately 22,000.
  • In August 1623 and April 1624, the English trading company Merchant Adventurers hosts huge celebrations in the Prinsenhof honoring Elizabeth Stuart, the daughter of King James I, and her consort, King Frederick V of Bohemia.
  • In 1625, Delft establishes in the newly rebuilt Town Hall a bank of exchange to facilitate international financial transactions. Cloth dyers from elsewhere set up business in Delft, together with a number of English printers.
  • In April 1629, a captain and merchant from Delfshaven named Piet Hein (1577–1629) is appointed lieutenant admiral of the Dutch navy. Two months later he dies in a skirmish with privateers at Dunkerque and was buried in the Oude Kerk in Delft, in a tomb paid for by tile Delft chamber of the V.O.C.
  • 1631 Reynier Vos, Vermeer's father, sets up as an art dealer. He becomes a member of the guild of St Luke (the painters' guild) on October 13. He is also a weaver and produces caffa, a fabric similar to silk.
  • In 1632, the scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek and the artist Johannes Vermeer are born in Delft. Van Leeuwenhoek perfects the microscope and, among his many discoveries, gives the first accurate description of red blood corpuscles. As financial administrator of the Town Council he will take charge of Vermeer's estate after the artist's death and arrange for his widow to sell his pictures at auction. The population of Delft is 21,000.
  • In 1634, the English cloth merchants decide to relocate their business to Rotterdam, leaving Delft for good. All subsequent attempts to breathe new life into the Delft
    textile industry prove fruitless The closing of the bank of exchange in the mid-1630s, Delft is suddenly much less cosmopolitan than before.
  • In the mid-1630s, The V.O.C. proves to be a disappointment to investors, and the Delft office lingers on only until 1676, when it is transferred to Rotterdam. A company formed with Delft capital to outfit ships and send them from Delfshaven on whaling missions to Greenland comes to nothing.
  • In 1636, the first regular trekschuiten (horse powered tow barge) connection from Delft to Leiden is established over the Vliet river which flows into Delft from the North. Two years later, The Hague is also connected to this route with a fork in the Vliet at the current Drievliet.


    a commemorative plaque claims otherwise


    The connection between The Hague and Delft becomes the busiest route in the Netherlands. Between half past six in the morning and seven in the evening, a tow boat departs every half hour from Delft to The Hague and vice versa. The use of the trekschiuten system is so popular that it will eventually spawn a literary genre called schuitepraatjes (boat talk). Boat talks pamphlets discuss or pokes fun at topical issues, in the form of a fictional conversation between, for example, a farmer, a merchant, and a gentleman, talking to each other during a trip on the tow barge.
  • Ins 1640, Delft has eleven potteries, each with a single kiln and an average of fifteen painters and servants.
  • By 1645, only twenty-five breweries are still in business. Nevertheless, the rapid expansion of the faience industry between 1650 and 1670 means that many new jobs are created, countering the view that the decline of the breweries and textile industry deals the city a mortal economic blow. Moreover, the families whose fortunes had been made in brewing or cloth production, and multiplied by shrewd investments in the East India trade, remain rich enough to invest in public monuments and to support a flourishing local school of painting throughout most of the seventeenth century.
  • Between 1644 and 1647, due to civil unrests in China , the import of Chinese porcelain stagnates from 200,000 to 125,000 pieces in 1647, and only a mere 15,000 pieces in 1652.  This stimulates the production of Delft potters.
  • As the pottery industry gains power in Delft, the position of the potters withion the St. Luke's Guild changes. By 1648, two of the six headmen are potters. In 1678, the potters attempt to form their own guild to prioritize their interests. Although unsuccessful, the potters eventually form their own organization within the guild in 1689.
  • In 1653, the De Koninklijke Porceleyne Fles (Royal Delft Porcelain Factory) is founded by David Anthonisz van der Pieth. Until the late 18th century, the company produces earthenware for clients around the Netherlands and Europe, commonly known as Delftware. Delftware ranged from simple household items—plain white earthenware with little or no decoration—to incredibly ornate pieces.
  • In 1650, when Vermeer was 18 years of age, the population of Delft is 24,000. A little more than half of its citizens are native to Delft.
  • In the mid-17th century, the estimated 50,000 paintings in Delft households belong to middle-class families.
  • By the mid-1600s, the production of Delft pottery soars.
  • In 1652, Carel Fabritius (1637–1673) enrolls in the Delft St. Luke's Guild. He paints A View of Delft.
  • On April 5, 1652, Vermeer marries Catherina Bolnes, who is a year and a half older than he. She comes of a good Catholic family of Gouda. Among the witnesses to the civil marriage is the successful Delft painter Leonaert Bramer (1596–1674). The religious marriage takes place on April 20 at Schipluyden (or Schipluiden) according to the Catholic rite, and must therefore have been clandestine. The young couple apparently make their home in the Mechelen house, where Vermeer's father runs an inn on the Markt. On December 29, Vermeer is admitted to the Guild of St Luke as a master painter. He pays a part of his enrollment fee: 1 florin and 10 stivers. He pays the rest (6 florins in all) on July 24, 1656.
  • On 12 October, 1654, the gunpowder magazine (known as t Secreet van Hollandt, or the Secret of Holland) explodes, know as the Delftse Donderslag (Delft Thunderclap), destroying much of the city. Over a hundred people are killed and thousands are injured. The explosion is caused at half-past ten in the morning by 40 tonnes (80,000 to 90,000 pounds) of black powder of the Netherlands' gunpowder reserve, which were stored in barrels in a magazine in a former Clarissen convent (Poor Clares). Luckily, many citizens are visiting a market in Schiedam or the fair in The Hague. But Carel Fabritius, Vermeer's colleague and Rembrandt's most talented pupil, who had lived with his family in the Doelenstraat nearby the gunpowder magazine, dies at his easel while painting a portrait, and with him perishes a part of his slim artistic production. Another Delft painter, Daniel Vosmaer, loses an eye. A baby girl is rescued after 24 hours, still sitting in her high chair, holding an apple and smiling. Commenting on the event, the bookseller and publisher Arnold Bon writes, in verse: "So to our loss this phoenix [Fabritius] has perished, Departing this life at the height of his fame. But happily from his ashes has here been born Vermeer, who with mastery follows his path."
  • Immediately after the disastrous Thunderclap of 1654, the mayors of Delft decide to make the best from the worst and relocate the Pesthuis, the  hospital for plague victims, outside the city. According to the latest medical insights, sufferers from the highly contagious disease should be isolated and secluded even after death. A sum of money is found buy land for a cemetery, which is already designated on a map made in 1656.
  • In 1654, the painter Jan Steen (c. 1626–1679) rents one of the few remaining breweries—De Slang (The Snake), also known as De Roskam (The Currycomb) on the city's main canal— but is forced to give it up three years later after suffering heavy losses. Steen's failure can be attributed only in part to his lack of managerial expertise: by the mid-1650s the whole country is experiencing a period of economic stagnation as a result of the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652-54).
  • In 1655, the Schie is completed as a canal with a towpath along the west side. The city council of Delft is the initiator because a good connection with Delfshaven is of primary commercial importance. The trekschiuten (tow-boat ferry service) directed to the south depart from the Zuidkolk from the quay in front of the Kethel or Schiedam gate, with ferries leaving in both directions every hour. Via the Schie canal the tow barges lead to Overschie, not far from the Maas River. Here one can go in three directions, straight to Delfshaven, to the right to Rotterdam, or to the left to Schiedam. There are 13 to 15 tow boats every day to Rotterdam , in both directions, day after day (except Sundays). This makes Delft a vital node in the network of tow barges in Southern Holland. Building a towpath requires negotiations with dozens of farmers and other landowners. Not only does the land have to be bought; additional requirements and infrastructure must be created, such as bridges, right of way, right to free passage, free tolls and so on. 
  • In the seventeenth century, it is estimated that 120,000 passengers traveled annually by tow barge between Delft and Rotterdam.
  • After the proclamation by the English parliament as king, the exiled Charles II turns down invitations from France and Spain to embark for England from their territory. Instead, he accept es Dutch States General (while living in Breda). He sails to Delft by yacht on May 26, 1660 and is triumphantly received. He then departs from The Hague on 23 May, 1660 and arrives in London six days later.
  • By the late 1600s, Delft becomes the main producer of pottery in the Netherlands, partly due to its declining brewing industry, which allowed artisans to move into larger buildings that were previously owned by the city’s breweries.
  • In the late 1660s, the city pays Leonaert Bramer for decorating the Great Hall of the Prinsenhof with canvas murals which appear to represent scenes appropriate both to government and entertainers (musicians, waiters, and banqueters).
  • By the 1650s, the system of trekschiuten, horse towed boats, has become so efficient that one could travel from Delft to The Hague in one hour and forty-five minutes, once and hour, or to Amsterdam in about twelve hours. Tow boats sail frequently, are rarely delayed and can sail night or day in almost any weather condition. Although they are primarily intended to carry passengers, they also sometimes carried cargo. For example, gin distillers from Schiedam used tow boats to transport their whare to Delft.
  • In 1661, Vermeer paints View of Delft.
  • On October 18, 1662, Vermeer is elected vice-dean of the guild which, to increase its funds, raises the enrollment fee of apprentices from 10 stivers to 2 florins and 10 stivers.
  • On August 11, 1663, Vermeer is visited in Delft by the French art lover and alchemist Balthasar de Monconys (1611-1665), of Lyons, who calls on many other painters during his travels in the Low Countries. "At Delft," writes Monconys in his diary, "I saw the painter Vermeer who had none of his works, but we saw some at a baker's shop which had fetched 600 livres, although there was but a single figure, which I should have thought too dear at six pistoles." Monconys is a cultivated man, but the prices asked for pictures in Holland seems to him too high. October 18, Vermeer elected dean of the painter's guild (for a year).
  • After 1664, there are no longer recorded cases of the plague in Delft. 
  • In 1665, the population of Delft is 25,000. 
  • In 1670, one-quarter of Delft's population is involved in the production of pottery. Out of the more than 100 breweries in Delft at the beginning of the 1600s, only 15 remain. In the same year there are 28 pottery factories, many of which are equipped with a second kiln.
  • On February 13, 1670, Vermeer's mother dies in her house in the Vlamingstraat. On July 13, Vermeer inherits the Mechelen in on Markt. On October 18, Vermeer is elected dean of the guild (for a year).
  • In 1671, Vermeer inherits from his sister Geertruyt the sum of 148, guilders.
  • In 1672, Louis XIV (1638–1715) of France invades the Netherlands (Het Rampjaar). On January 1 of the same year, Dirck van Bleyswyck's (1639–1681) Beschryvinge der Stadt Delft (Description of the City of Delft) is published. Van Bleyswijck, son of a well to-do brewer and burgomaster, recounts that he is forced by illness to abandon plans for a grand tour of the Netherlands, France, and Italy, and then, lying on his sickbed, decides he would take the opportunity to explore the history of his hometown. Van Bleyswijck believes that his love of Delft is shared by many of his fellow townspeople. Yet he senses a change in outlook, complaining in his preface that a whole generation is growing up who are interested only in things from far-off lands and no longer concern themselves with their own heritage. Clearly, prosperity and the worldwide expansion of the republic has profoundly influenced the thinking of many Delft burghers by the third quarter of the seventeenth century.
  • On April 9, 1672, Delft sends troops to help defend against the invading French army. On June 29, unemployed protestors from Schiedam occupy Delft City Hall. On September 10, half of the Veertigraad, (Forty of Council), company of the forty richest citizens, are replaced with pro-Orangist regents.
  • On May 3, 1672, Vermeer goes to the Hague with the Delft painter Hans Jordaens. There, with other artists including Karel Dujardin, they are asked to give an opinion concerning thirteen "Italian" pictures being sold by Gerrit Uylenburgh (son of Rembrandt's dealer) to the Elector of Brandenburg: they considered the pictures bad.
  • In 1675, Johannes Vermeer dies and is buried in the Nieuwe Kerk.
  • In 1680, the population of Delft is 25,000.
  • On January 2, 1688, Catherina Bolnes, Vermeer wife, is interred in the Oude Kerk in Delft. According to the death certificate she is no longer living in the Oude Langendijk, but in a house in the Verversdijk at the sign of the Blue Hand. 
  • In about 1700, the city has approximately 22,000 inhabitants, but many foreigners move away. The number of Delftware factories reaches it peaks at more than thirty. Despite the lack of official numbers, estimates of employees working in one factory vary from fifteen to sixty. 
  • In 1732, the population of Delft is 15,000.
  • In 1749, the population diminishes to 13,900.
  • In 1834 and 1836, the Rotterdam and the Schiedam Gates, which appear prominently in Vermeer's View of Delft, are demolished.

  • * Among the sources for this timeline are the invaluable Oefgoed Delft Stadsarchief (City Archives Delft)—particularly the article entitled 365 DAYS DELFT—and the Lens on Leeuwenhoek website.

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