Civic Guards

Delft's civic guard (schutterij)

During Leeuwenhoek's lifetime, Delft had no police force as we know it today. At night, the gates were guarded and the streets patrolled by members of the civic guard, which developed from the militia in the late 1500's during the early years of the Dutch Republic.

The area within Delft's walls was divided after 15xx into 16 wards (wijken) for administrative purposes, especially tax assessments. For defensive purposes, it was divided after 1616 into four districts. On August 1 of that year, riots broke out in the city in protest of a new excise tax on corn. The civic guard was called out but had trouble organizing because the streets were so crowded. Leonard Bramert's drawing (right; click to enlarge), made decades later, shows that most of the rioters were women.

After that, instead of being organized by type of weapon, the civic guard was re-organized geographically into four districts in bands stretching across the city. In that way, each district had a cross section of regents and wealthier citizens on the west side along the Oude and Nieuwe Delft grachten mixed with poorer citizens on the east side. The regent men were the officers.

Each guard district was named after the dominant color in its banner (vendel). The first district, the Green Banner (Groene vendel), extended from the southern singel to the more or less straight east-west line formed by Poppesteeg, Nickersteeg, Molstraat, Molsaan and Hopstraat.

The second district, the Orange Banner (Orange vendel), to the north, extended from the first district's line to a roughly parallel line formed by Boterbrug, Waagsteeg, the center of the Marktvelt, and Nieuwe Langendijk.

The third district, where Leeuwenhoek lived, included the Oude Kerk, the Stadhuis, and the Nieuwe Kerk. It was guarded by the White Banner (Witte vendel). The again roughly parallel line extended from Schoolstraat, just north of the Oude Kerk, and then across the city to the eastern singel. However, it did not follow a series of streets; instead, it cut between houses.

The fourth district, the Blue Banner (Blauw vendel), was everything north of the third district. It was the largest but had the fewest people. While group portraits of the various cities' civic guards were common at the time, there are only four of members of Delft's guard. The right sidebar presents them in chronological order. The first was painted by Jacob Delff. The third, showing officers of the Orange banner, was painted by one of Jacob's sons, Rochus, and the fourth, showing officers of the White banner (Leeuwenhoek's district) was painted by one of Jacob's gransons, also named Jacob. In that year, 1648, Leeuwenhoek was beginning his apprenticeship in Amsterdam. Jacob the younger was the husband of Anna Hogenhouck, the daugher of Leeuwenhoek's great-grandmother Neeltje's nephew Abraham Hogenhouck.

Shooting champion

Boitet lists the city's 87 annual shooting champion (schutterskoning, literally king of the guards) from 1638 to 1725, many of them repeat winners.

For many years in the 1660's and 1670's, Leeuwenhoek's friend Jan Strick was manager (doelknecht) of the Doele, the city's shooting range.