Leeuwenhoek's neighborhood: Hippolytusbuurt

This map, the Delft Batavorum from Blaeu's Toonneel der Steden, is oriented with east northeast at the top. It shows where Leeuwenhoek spent most of his time, here he lived, worked, shopped, worshipped, and socialized. As he walked the streets of Delft, he continually passed houses and business owned by people in his family.

The singel along the bottom runs along the city's western wall. Half a dozen towers are visible, most of them between the Schoolpoort on the left and the Waterslootsepoort, the main city gate to the west with its rampart, in the bottom right corner.

 the center of Delft
where Leeuwenhoek spent almost his whole adult life

Leeuwenhoek and his first wife Barbara grew up on the Oosteinde, just off the top right corner of the map. The light-colored tree-lined rectangle there is the Beestenmarkt, which in 1595 replaced the Franciscan cloister visible on the Braun map from the late 1500's. For almost 400 years, until 1972, cows were bought and sold at the Beestenmarkt. It is now a tree-canopied outdoor cafe during warm weather. Leeuwenhoek's grandfather Jacob Sebastians van den Berch owned the property on the northwest (bottom-left) corner of the Beestenmarkt.

Following that gracht, the Burgwal, to the west (down the map), it turns south to become the Brabantse Turfmarkt. Turf refers to the peat sold in bricks as fuel. Leeuwenhoek's uncle Huijch Thonis and his children, Antony's cousins Lambrecht, Geertruij, Maerten, Jannitge, and Margaretha, lived on the the Brabantse Turfmarkt.

Moving north past the neighborhood where Vermeer lived and worked, the big open area in the center of the map is Marktplein, the main market square. The Nieuwe Kerk is at the top, behind the trees. Leeuwenhoek was baptized there, as were many of his relatives; they were also married and buried there. Across the square is the Stadhuis, where Leeuwenhoek worked as an official of the city court after 1660.

Directly behind the Stadhuis is a narrow alley and a bridge. The alley ran along the Waag, the building behind the Stadhuis where Leeuwenhoek as a city inspector after 1679.

In the southwest (bottom-right) corner of Marktplein, Leeuwenhoek's cousin Maerten Huijchs owned two properties, one of which, like the Waag, backed onto the gracht. Those two parallel grachts running north-south across the lower part of the map are the Nieuwe Delft (upper) and Oude Delft (lower).

The Nieuwe Delft was divided into sections. The part to the south (toward Rotterdam) is the Koornmarkt. Koorn here refers to all types of grain, especially those for making bread and beer. Many of Leeuwenhoek's van den Berch and Hogenhouck relatives lived on the Koornmarkt at one time or another, most notably his grandfather Jacob Sebastiaans van den Berch, who grew up in the Bel, the family home on the corner of the Kroomsteeg.

Parallel to the Nieuwe Delft, the Oude Delft was also home to Leeuwenhoek's relatives, especially the Hogenhoucks, in the regent class that ruled the city.

After the Koornmarkt, the next section of the Nieuwe Delft gracht to the north is the Wijnhaven behind the Waag. Next to the north comes the Hippolytusbuurt, which extends from the wide Warmoesbrug to the Oude Kerk, where it becomes the Voorstraat.

Leeuwenhoek is buried in the Oude Kerk. The street running east from the Oude Kerk is Choorstraat, where Leeuwenhoek's de Molijn relatives lived. West of the Oude Kerk, also in blue, is the Prinsenhof, where Willem of Orange lived and was assassinated. He is buried in the Nieuwe Kerk.

In the center of the map, just to the northwest of the Stadhuis, is a small square, the Camaretten, and a wide bridge, the Warmoesbrug. Warmoes is an old Dutch word for vegetables. The Vleeshal and the Vismarkt are on the north, on the east side of the gracht, with gray roofs. The Vismarkt extends to the edge of the gracht. Directly across, on the west side of the Hipploytusbuurt gracht, Leeuwenhoek's house was the second in from the lower-left corner of the Camaretten.

He didn't have far to go to work. A hundred yards over either the Warmoesbrug or the Waagbrug took him to the front of the Waag or to the back end of the Stadhuis where the staff entered.

Learn more about some of these public buildings at the pages linked below.


According to his biographers, from the age of 22, Leeuwenhoek lived along the Hippolytusbuurt gracht, a tree-lined, gently flowing canal in the center of quiet little Delft. He is buried beside it, too.

A view of the Hippolytusbuurt gracht, looking south,
coming up on Leeuwenhoek's house on the right just before the Warmoesbrug.

In Delft, a gracht is a brick-lined canal within a city, about two meters deep. The inner city of Delft has miles of grachts like this one; it is named after the section of the street that lines it. The Hippolytusbuurt is only one short section of the Nieuwe Delft between the Stadhuis and the Oude Kerk. It extends from the Voorstraat (behind the picture taker) to the Wijnhaven (past the Warmoesbrug). Known locally as the Pooltjesbuurt, it was also called Voorstraat well into Leeuwenhoek's lifetime, when Hippolytusbuurt became common.

Most of the year, the water flows in a southeasterly direction toward the Warmoesbrug along the front of Leeuwenhoek's house, Het Gouden Hoofd, the Golden Head, now part of Hippolytusbuurt 1. Long gone, it was on the west side just two houses before the bridge. That's the right-hand side in the photo above and the lower row in the Kaart Figuratief below, the second roof in directly across from the M in Vis Marct.

Directly across the gracht, so close he could smell them, are the Vismarkt, the ancient fish market, and next to it, the Vleeshal, the newly constructed (1650) meat market. The Warmoesbrug, the wide bridge, is part of an open square, the Cameretten, all clearly labeled in Bleyswyck's map, above. Warmoes is old-fashioned Dutch for vegetables.

According to the Kadaster map of 1832, there were eighteen properties on Leeuwenhoek's west side of the Hippolytusbuurt and a dozen on the other side. Only two remain standing, pictured below, number 8 (left; click to enlarge) and numbers 15-17 (right).

In the pattern most common before the Industrial Revolution separated home from the workplace, Leeuwenhoek lived over his shop. As he abandoned the retail trade and turned to science, the shop and office on the ground floor were where he made and looked through his lenses and where he managed the specimens and his records and wrote his letters. In the letter of October 9, 1676, he refers to his glasses, specimens, and lathe in his voor camer, which was where his customers had shopped, opening onto the street, and in his comptoir, which would have been the office where he kept his money and business records.

Hippolytusbuurt 8 (eastside)

Hippolytusbuurt 15 - 17 (westside)