DELFT, a town of Holland in the province of South Holland, on the Schie, 5 m. by rail S.E. by S. of the Hague, with which it is also connected by steam-tramway. Pop. (1900) 31,582. It is a quiet, typically Dutch town, with its old brick houses and tree-bordered canals. The Prinsenhof, previously a monastery, was converted into a residence for the counts of Orange in 1575; it was here that William the Silent was assassinated. It is now used as a William of Orange Museum. The New Church, formerly the church of St Ursula (14th century), is the burial place of the princes of Orange. It is remarkable for its fine tower and chime of bells, and contains the splendid allegorical monument of William the Silent, executed by Hendrik de Keyser and his son Pieter about 1621, and the tomb of Hugo Grotius, born in Delft in 1583, whose statue, erected in 1886, stands in the market-place outside the church. The Old Church, founded in the 11th century, but in its present form dating from 1476, contains the monuments of two famous admirals of the 17th century, Martin van Tromp and Piet Hein, as well as the tomb of the naturalist Leeuwenhoek, born at Delft in 1632. In the town hall (1618) are some corporation pictures, portraits of the counts of Orange and Nassau, including several by Michiel van Mierevelt (1567–1641), one of the earliest Dutch portrait painters, and with his son Pieter (1595–1623), a native of Delft. There are also a Roman Catholic church (1882) and a synagogue. Two important educational establishments are the Indian Institute for the education of civil service students for the colonies, to which is attached an ethnographical museum; and the Royal Polytechnic school, which almost ranks as a university, and teaches, among other sciences, that of diking. A fine collection of mechanical models is connected with the polytechnic school. Among other buildings are the modern “Phoenix” club-house of the students; the hospital, containing some anatomical pictures, including one by the two Mierevelts (1617); a lunatic asylum; the Van Renswoude orphanage, the theatre, a school of design, the powder magazine and the state arsenal, originally a warehouse of the East India Company, and now used as a manufactory of artillery stores.
The name of Delft is most intimately associated with the manufacture of the beautiful faience pottery for which it was once famous. (See Ceramics.) This industry was imported from Haarlem towards the end of the 16th century, and achieved an unrivalled position in the second half of the following century; but it did not survive the French occupation at the end of the 18th century. It has, however, been revived in modern times under the name of “New Delft.” Other branches of industry are carpet-weaving, distilling, oil and oil-cake manufacture, dyeing, cooperage and the manufacture of arms and bullets. There is also an important butter and cheese market.
Delft was founded in 1075 by Godfrey III., duke of Lower Lorraine, after his conquest of Holland, and came subsequently into the hands of the counts of Holland. In 1246 it received a charter from Count William II. (see C. Hegel, Städte und Gilden, ii. 251). In 1536 it was almost totally destroyed by fire, and in 1654 largely ruined by the explosion of a powder magazine.