New streets? Old names!

The centuries old city of Delft is being refurbished. Soon trains will run underground, leaving space for a new station, housing, offices, roads, canals and a city park. And that means new streets which need naming.

Later this month, building begins in earnest, creating not only streets, roads and lanes, but also squares, parks and canal-side addresses. In all, around 1300 new place names will be needed according to the city’s Street Names Committee.


Fortunately with such a long and rich history, Delft has many old monuments and “famous sons” after which places can be named; Vermeer and van Leeuwenhoek spring to mind. But historically, streets were often named after people who were not famous said committee member, Peter van der Krogt. According to him, “It often happened that a street was called after the guy who lived on the corner as in the case of Jacob Gerrit Street in Delft.”

Of course many towns in the Netherlands and elsewhere are named after local landmarks e.g. Church Lane, The Market or New Street – ironically one of the oldest names street names in the country. In Delft there is a Butter Bridge and an Animals Market both names hinting at their history as important locations.

Rules for names 

When it comes to assigning names for new streets, there are some general guidelines. Firstly names should not be confusing; neither should they be too long or difficult to spell or pronounce. Furthermore they should not have names that can be ridiculed or sound rude. “And they must also be consistent with the surrounding areas”, said van der Krogt. “So if a new street is built in a district named after birds or naval heroes, as is often the case in the Netherlands, you have stay with that theme.” Finally if a place is called after a person, that person needs to have been dead for at least ten years – unless they belong to the royal family.

Newspaper highlights public disappointment 

In the spirit of democracy, the Delft city council also invited the general public to suggest names for the new streets. On February 9, 2015 at a public meeting with the Street Names Committee, a Dutch national newspaper, the Algemeen Dagblad (AD) presented several hundred reactions to the Mayor of Delft. However, according to the AD next day, people were likely to be disappointed. It seems the Committee had already selected the themes from which street names would be chosen. So rather than the popular suggestion Queen Maxima Street, the committee would prefer names commemorating old aristocratic families or obsolete professions, such as linen sellers. These “pre-arranged plans” said the AD have left people feeling very disappointed.

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