Leeuwenhoek's neighborhood: Oosteinde

Antony was born and raised to age 8 on the gracht called Oosteinde ("east end"). In 1928, the house (below; click to enlarge) was replaced by the school building that is there now. The house was next to the Leeuwenpoort (Lion's Gate), also long gone, the gate that Antony's father's generation began using as a family name. In the picture on the far right, the poort had become what looks like a shed with a slanted roof.

The detail below from the Wandkaart van Delft shows not only the neighborhood where Leeuwenhoek grew up. It also shows the property across the singel -- A0985 - A0991 now on Dr. Schaepmanstraat. Grandfather Thonis Philips is the first recorded owner of those properties in the notary archives. On the map below, it's the long rectangle in the center. The end closest to the singel has a gate that has a little house attached to it and another little house just to the left of it.

As shown on the key below left (click on thumbnails for larger images), which is at the bottom right of the huge Wandkaart, Number 33 is labeled Klaeuw Hofje and Number 34 is Leeuwe Poort. The Klaeuw Hofje is the group of a dozen houses around the garden with two trees that the white hand is pointing toward. It provided residences for unmarried and windows Catholic women, and is still standing.

Leeuwe Poort, number 34, was an alley between Oosteinde and Oranje Plantage along the singel. I don't know why it was called Leeuwe (lion), the heraldic symbol for both Delft and the Republic. The poort indicates that it may have had a gate at one time. Thus the house in the picture is the one on the map between 33 and 34.

The pre-1928 photos below from the Delft city archive. It show a structure, attached to the left (north) side of the house between the house and the Klaeuw Hofje. It is not indicated on the Wandkaart or on the 1832 Kadaster map, on the right below, which has E0073 Oosteinde 56 as one parcel. The old Leeuwe Poort alley was by then E0075, owned by the same person who owned E0074 behind the house, apparantly a one-story storage area.


The structure on the left of the house was a two-story building with two narrow doors and a solid row of windows above. Perhaps it was there that Antony's father employed people to make baskets to feed the growing ceramics industry. At the time, the safest way to transport the tiles and plates was to nest them in straw in baskets made from willow branches and reeds. As Soutendam notes in his book describing the neighborhood in 1600, the Oosteinde was the birthplace of Delft's famed pottery industry, which needed a steady supply of baskets to pack the plates and tiles for shipment around the world.

The next question then, is whether part of the large property across the singel was used for growing a dependable supply of willow and reed. If it is true that Antony's grandfather Thonis Philips and his sons used this side house for a basket making operation, then Antony grew up in relative prosperity. His father was a business owner, not a poor solitary basket-weaver. Perhaps his mother, raised in a regent family, did not marry that far below her social class.

A case of mistaken identity

The image on the right was taken from the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf's issue of January 5, 1928. The caption:

Tot Verdwijnen Gedoemd. - Het geboortehuis van Anthonie van Leeuwenhoek aan het Oosteinde te Delft zal worden afgebroken.

Doomed to Disappear. - The birthplace of Anthony van Leeuwenhoek at the Oosteinde in Delft will be demolished.

In spite of the efforts of the Dutch historical societies that appealed to the Delft city council, the demolition occurred shortly thereafter. The image in the Telegraaf, however, does not seem to be of the same house as the ones above. What house is this?