Delft Thunderclap: fire following explosion killed 1200 people and destroyed much of Delft

October 12, 1654

The Day the World Came to an End
by Chris Chambers
February 2010,

Egbert van der Poel
A View of Delft after the Explosion of 1654
oil on canvas, around 1654

On the Paardenmarkt, the horse market, was a convent. In the cellar, which the city government used as a storehouse, 80,000 pounds of gunpowder exploded on Monday, October 12, 1654.

This explosion, called the Delft Thunderclap, was caused by an inspector with a lantern. It injured a thousand and left a hundred people dead, including painter Carel Fabritius. It destroyed hundreds of wooden homes, mostly in the ensuing fire. At the time, the newly married Leeuwenhoek was living on the Verwersdijk, well within the area of the blast. The house was owned by his uncle Huijch and was occupied by Huijch's daughter, cousin Geertruijt.

Both Huijch and his son Maerten received compensation from the city for the damages caused by the explosion.

The explosion was the most significant event in the city's history since Willem was assassinated in 1584.

Within twenty years, the city had been largely re-built, of brick and stone this time, and the population continued to grow. Businesses like Leeuwenhoek's would prosper under these conditions, too.