Berkelse Meer

Berkelse Meer was the name for the two small lakes in a boggy area three miles to the east southeast of Delft. The two lakes, the Westmeer and the Oostmeer, were connected by a creek. They lie about six meters below sea level, among the lowest levels in the province of South Holland. From this lake, probably the Oostmeer, Leeuwenhoek drew the water in which he first saw microbes. In September 1674, he wrote to Henry Oldenburg about what he saw in the water (AB 11).

He may well have been there helping his friend Jacob Spoors, who was surveying nearby land for the Coornwinder family. They owned several pieces of lakeshore property and wanted a new drainage ditch (sloot) that would drain the Oostmeer. If so, then the heavy surveying equipment probably meant that the group traveled there by boat, five and a half miles down the Schie, with an eastward turn at Zweth.

The 1712 map on the right (click to enlarge) shows Delft at the top and the two small lakes at the bottom. It is a detail from the wallmap Het Hoogeheemraedschap van Delflant by Nicolaes Krukius (1678-1754), also Nicolaas (Klaas) Kruik or the Latinized Nicolaus Samuelis Cruquius. At the time, mapmakers did not practice the convention of north at top. The Schie canal runs south out of Delft toward Rotterdam. In the bottom left corner of the map is the hamlet of Zweth. There, the Berklse Zweth runs east straight between the polders to the two lakes.

In almost the center of the image below, the western neck of the Oostmeer crosses the road from Delft and Pijnaker to the north and Rotterdam to the south. At that crossing is a bridge and toll gate, shown on the right sidebar in a detail from the 1678 Kaart Figuratief (click to enlarge). The caption states that the right of the Berkel shire (ambacht; smallest rural administrative unit) to collect tolls was granted by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1555.

The bog was used as a source for peat (turf) to heat the homes in Delft, Rotterdam, and den Haag. The peat boats would travel the Berkelse Zweth to the Schie canal. See the photo on the right (click to enlarge) where the Berklese Zweth met the canal.

By the mid-1700's, the peat was rapidly disappearing, so the lakes were drained to provide arable land. The map below places the Krukius map as a layer over a Google Earth screenshot. It was made by Wim van Egmond, a microphotographer who lives in Berkel on what was the shore of the old Oostmeer.