Waterways and Bridges

The tree-lined waterways of Delft provide a quiet, peaceful atmosphere for city life. More importantly, they control the water that otherwise would make the city a marsh. Management of that water is the single most important factor in the quality of life throughout Holland. Management of it within Delft is as old as the city itself. In fact, the name Delft comes from the old Dutch word delven, for dig, as in the English "delve into something".

Between 1100 and the granting of the city's first rights in 1246, the three major grachten -- north-south waterways -- were dug, as well as sloten -- east-west ditches -- to drain the area's fields and pastures into them. By 1560, the system had reached the state shown in the map below.

North is to the left, so the north-south grachten are running back and forth across the page and the east-west sloten are running up and down. The dozens of bridges over the water are clearly marked. Contemporary photographs and some maps are available on the Wikipedia's Bridges in Delft category page.


The light brown area was the only area originally granted city rights by Count Willem II. It had the three orgininal grachten, now called the Oude Delft, Niuewe Delft, and the Brabantse Turftmarkt,  Burgwal, and Verwersdijk.

The Oude Delft, the lower one on the map and the oldest, was dug around 1100, widening a section of the Gantel creek system. The Oude Delft connects the Vliet going off to the left (north) towards den Haag and Leiden and the Schie going off to the right (south) towards Rotterdam and Schiedam.

The Wikipedia entry for Oude Delft (nl) has a picture of the dozen bridges over the Oude Delft, going north to south:

  • Wateringsevest
  • Roosbrug
  • Bagijnhofbrug
  • Harmen Schinkelbrug (right, named after the 16th century book printer who lived on the corner)
  • Bartholomeusbrug
  • Heilige Geestbrug
  • Jeronymusbrug
  • Mauriciusbrug
  • Sint Jansbrug
  • Weesbrug
  • Zuidwal

The Nieuwe Delft, parallel to the Oude Delft and dug not long thereafter, runs through the middle of these Medieval city limits. Leeuwenhoek lived almost midway along the Nieuwe Delft between the Nieuwe and Oude Delft.

The Wikipedia entry for Nieuwe Delft (nl) has a picture of the dozen bridges, going north to south:

  • Sint Stevensbrug
  • Visbrug (foot and bike traffic only)
  • Poelbrug
  • Warmoesbrug (outside of Leeuwenhoek's house)
  • Waagsteeg (right, today)
  • Touwbrug
  • Leeuwebrug (foot and bike traffic only)
  • Sint Jacobsbrug

The Nieuw Delft gracht and the street along either side have a variety of names. From north to south, it is called:

  • Voorstraat to the Visbrug
  • Hippolytusbuurt (also called Pooltjesbuurt) from the Visbrug past the Poelbrug to the Warmoesbrug
  • Wijnhaven from the Warmoesbrug to the Touwbrug
  • Koornmarkt from the Touwbrug to the Sint Jacobsbrug
  • Korte and Lange Geer from the Sint Jacobsbrug to the Rotterdamse Poort

Still looking at the 1246 brown area of the map, the upper (eastern) boundary was a gracht that later had to bend around the Nieuwe Kerk. The part to the right, closer to Rotterdam, is the Brabantse Turftmarkt. The part that bends around the church is the Burgwal (city wall), and the part that continues parallel to the Nieuwe Delft and Oude Delft is the Verwersdijk. The area that is now Markt Plein with the Nieuwe Kerk and the Stadhuis was a market back then -- Delft's reason for being. It was officially the Count's property.

Note: Brabantse Turftmarkt. In soggy Holland, without large stands of trees to burn, peat (turf) was the main source of burnable fuel for the homes, breweries, and pottery works. In the 15th century, landowners in the Duchy of Brabant, south of Delft and now part of Belgium, sent peat to the city in flat-bottomed boats (ponten) pushed by poles, that is, thin tree trunks. At first, the peat boats tied up at the Achterom. Later, their mooring was closer to the current Brabantse Turfmarkt, originally called the Pontemarkt.


Twenty years later, the green area was added by permission of Floris V (charter no. 5289 below right; click to enlarge). It extended the city Delft to the other side of the Oude Delft. Count Floris' permission specified an exact distance from the Oude Delft between the Dirklangensteeg (then the Arnoudt Snemenbrug) and the Binnenwatersloot. Its eastern limit later became the bank of the singel or outer moat.


The blue area was added by permission of Margaretha van Beieren. The Oude Delft was extended as Nordeinde and the Geer spanned the distance past the Nieuwe Delft to the Verwersdijk.

In the following year, the Voldersgracht and the Langendijk running east-west between the Nieuwe Delft gracht and the Oosteinde gracht completed the delineation of Markt Plein balanced on either end by the Stadhuis and the Nieuwe Kerk.


The city expanded into the pink area on the map when Willem V gave the citizens permission to build bulwarks of earth around the area that the city had the rights to administer. The bulwaks were made from sand, clay, and silt accumulated when the waterways were dug. These bulwarks were then topped by stone and brick walls. The wide waterway ringing the bulwarks became known as the singel (belt). It was 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.

Charter of 1268
issued by Floris V

The east-west grachten between the main north-south grachten:

between Brabanste Turfmarkt and Oosteinde

  • Molslaan
  • Gasthuislaan
  • Zuidergracht
Between Vrouwjuttenland and Verwersdijk and the singel
  • Langendijk
  • Vlamingstraat
  • Rietveld
  • Kantoorgracht

Thus, by 1355, Delft had the boundaries and inner waterways that it had three hundred years later when Leeuwenhoek returned from Amsterdam to live the rest of his life along the tree-shaded grachten.