Friday, 23 November 2012

The Leiden Gunpowder disaster

This week the Leiden university was asked to see if there was a Jerome or Jeroen Vlieland or Hollander in their books as a student .
They searched all their books of students and graduates but he was not listed.
But there was always the possibility of a dispensation said the researcher which happened quite a lot in those days. And in that case he was not on the list.
Studying in Leiden or not ,he most certainly would have heard about this disaster .
And maybe some uncles or aunts of Jerome  living in Leiden were killed.

The Leiden Gunpowder disaster

The Leidengunpowder disaster took place on January 12th1807, at a quarter past four in the afternoon during the French occupation.

A ship that went from Haarlem to Delft had 37.000 pounds (17 760 kg) of gunpowder on board. It exploded right in the centre of Leiden in het Steenschuur in line with the Rapenburg.

The disaster took over 151 deaths and 2000 wounded. Approximately 220 houses were completely destroyed. Even in the remotest districts in Leiden windows were broken and roof tiles blown off. The Pieterskerk was also affected, the Van Hagerbeer organ was very badly damaged and the windows were blown out of the church.

The blast was heard in The Hague, and according to some unreliable sources even in Friesland (north of Holland). The cause of the disaster is unknown. It is claimed that this was due to carelessness of a crew member during cooking, a pedestrian saw shortly before the explosion that potato peels were thrown overboard.

Within 5 hours King Louis Napoleon was already at the scene of the disaster, he stayed a whole day. He wanted to help and put thousands of soldiers at work to rebuild Leiden. He wanted to help Leiden,and put thousands of soldiers at work to rebuild Leiden. These soldiers were actually meant to watch on the beach for an English invasion. The King set up a disaster fund and donated 30.000 guilders from his private fortune, a considerable sum of money for that time. And Leiden didn’t have to pay tax for the ten years that followed (until 1817). He ordered bakers from the neighboring city of Delft to bake breads for the affected inhabitants of Leiden and sent his courtsurgeon to Leiden. He also had Huis ten Bosch converted into an emergency hospital. After that all he was called 'Louis the Good'. A national collection raised nearly 2 million guilders.

It took weeks to clear the debris. Some people could still be removed from the rubble, but for many, help came too late. As a direct result of the accident, the King prohibited the transportation of gunpowder through densely populated areas. The reconstruction of the center of Leiden was slow because of the poor economic situation and (alleged) corruption by administrators. At the request of Louis Napoleon, an obelisk was erected, but it didn't rise above the brick foundation. In 1837 King William I decided that the monument would not be erected further.

Until this very day, the location of the disaster is marked in the center of Leiden. The location of the gunpowder ship is marked by a memorial stone in the dock of the Steenschuur. Around the accident site the magnitude of the devastation is still visible.
And if you want to read all of it you can click here 

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