LEIDEN – Several blocks in Leiden destroyed by an explosion on a ship with gunpowder. According to initial reports there are dozens dead, possibly even more than one hundred. Also, hundreds of homes have been destroyed or severely damaged.

On the ship, almost 18.000 kilo transported gunpowder, was around quarter past four first small explosion. Thereafter, a much larger explosion followed, which was heard in The Hague.

The ship Delfs Welvaren, was en route from Haarlem to Delft and was moored at the Stone Barn, the canal where the explosion occurred.

rescue Work

Immediately after the blow aid got under way. In some places, people are under the rubble removed, but the help came too late for many victims.

Among the missing are two professors from the University of Leiden. It is Jean Luzac, who is also publisher of the Gazette de Leyde, and Adriaan Mound.

An additional problem for the rescuers is that many disaster tourists want to take a look at the affected area. Also stole his belongings from the rubble. The municipality therefore repels unwanted guests and allow only owners of one of the buildings or to people helping with cleanup.

The havoc in the center of Leiden is gigantic. Several blocks have disappeared completely. Thus the Catholic hidden church is completely destroyed. It will probably take weeks before the debris is cleared.

Louis Napoleon

King Louis Napoleon was a few hours after the explosion site. How long he stays in Leiden is not clear. He has a part of the army instructions to assist in the clean-up work.

If there is financial help for the city of Leiden and the people affected is unknown.


On the cause of the blast is not much yet clear. Eyewitnesses were cooked on board the ship. On deck was a bucket given with peeled potatoes. Also, people had smelled fried haddock.

Many people point to Adam van Schie, the skipper, but he would not have been on the ship. On board were two or sons of Van Schie and a servant.

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Meanwhile, the question arises what did the gunpowder ship in Leiden. Why was the middle between the houses?

According to local regulation transporting gunpowder per ship is not prohibited within a city, as long as the store but located outside the urban area.

However, it is common in military transports that the load is covered with fire resistant carpets and that the hatches are closed, but that was not the case. It is also required to have on board professional counselors, but that was not the case. The rules about the transportation of powder, moreover, are not legally stipulated.

Hoe ging het verder?

The total number of victims has never been clear. Somewhere between the 154 en 165. Some names were also on the list twice. Identifying the victims was a particularly difficult job, because the technology was not quite as developed as now. Often garments were, jewellery, watches or belt buckles used to identify victims.

King Louis Napoleon emerged as a concerned and compassionate ruler. He not only gave soldiers to help with the task in rubble, he asked 30.000 guilders from his private assets available for disaster relief. Furthermore, residents of Leiden did the next ten years no (or less) pay taxes.

The guilt is never resolved. Adam van Schie was not on board, is clear. Whether he should facilitate better transport (he left it to include his inexperienced son and his disabled brother) is of course a question that remains.

Ultimately dismissed the case, because everything around gunpowder 'state secret'.


Wikipedia – Leiden gunpowder disaster

university of Leiden – New facts about the Leiden gunpowder disaster

university of Leiden – A fatal event (meaning Ponsen)

Royal Library – Leiden gunpowder explosion

Text: Dave Datema

published: 01 oktober 2017

story number: 25

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