The city of Delft came into being aside a canal, the ‘Delf’, which comes from the word delven, meaning digging, and led to the name Delft. It presumably started around the 11th century as a landlord court.
From a rural village in the early Middle Ages Delft developed to a city, that in the 13th century (1246) received its charter. (For some more information about the early development, see the article “Gracht”, section “Delft as an example”).
The town’s association with the House of Orange started when William of Orange (Willem van Oranje), nicknamed William the Silent (Willem de Zwijger), took up residence in 1572. At the time he was the leader of growing national Dutch resistance against Spanish occupation of the country, which struggle is known as the Eighty Years’ War. By then Delft was one of the leading cities of Holland and it was equipped with the necessary city walls to serve as a headquarters.
After the Act of Abjuration was proclaimed in 1581 Delft became the de facto capital of the newly independent Netherlands, as the seat of the Prince of Orange.
When William was shot dead in 1584, by Balthazar Gerards in the hall of the Prinsenhof, the family’s traditional burial place in Breda was still in the hands of the Spanish. Therefore, he was buried in the Delft Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), starting a tradition for the House of Orange that has continued to the present day.
The Delft Explosion, also known in history as the Delft Thunderclap, occurred on 12 October 1654 when a gunpowder store exploded, destroying much of the city. Over a hundred people were killed and thousands wounded.
About 30 tonnes (29.5 long tons; 33.1 short tons) of gunpowder were stored in barrels in a magazine in a former Clarissen convent in the Doelenkwartier district. Cornelis Soetens, the keeper of the magazine, opened the store to check a sample of the powder and a huge explosion followed. Luckily, many citizens were away, visiting a market in Schiedam or a fair in The Hague. Artist Carel Fabritius was wounded in the explosion and died of his injuries. Later on, Egbert van der Poel painted several pictures of Delft showing the devastation.
- The city centre retains a large number of monumental buildings, whereas in many streets there are canals of which the borders are connected by typical bridges, altogether making this city a notable tourist destination. Historical buildings and other sights of interest include:
- Oude Kerk (Old Church). Buried here: Piet Hein, Johannes Vermeer, Anthony van Leeuwenhoek.
- Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), constructed between 1381 and 1496. It contains the Dutch royal family’s burial vault, which between funerals is sealed with a 5,000 kg (11,023 lb) cover stone.
- A statue of Hugo Grotius made by Franciscus Leonardus Stracké in 1886, located on the Markt near the Nieuwe Kerk.
- The Prinsenhof (Princes’ Court), now a museum.
- City Hall on the Markt.
- The Oostpoort (Eastern gate), built around 1400. This is the only remaining gate of the old city walls.
- The Gemeenlandshuis Delfland, or Huyterhuis, built in 1505, which has housed the Delfland regional water authority since 1645.
- The Vermeer Centre in the rebuilt Guild house of St. Luke.
- The historical “Waag” building (Weigh house).
- Windmill De Roos, a tower mill built c.1760. Restored to working order in 2013.