Matthijs Naiveu: The regents of the Peat Porters Guild of leiden (1677)

(Museum Lakenhal, Leiden, The Netherlands)

A large regents group portrait (Dutch is 'regentenstuk') by the Dutch painter Matthijs Naiveu (1647-1726). The men on this painting are the regents or board of directors (in Dutch they are called 'hoofdlieden') of the Peat Porters Guild of the town of Leiden. Peat was an important source of fuel for heating buildings and in the industry before it was replaced with coal. Peat was gathered outside the cities by merchants. The gathered peat was transported with ships to the cities were it was sold to the people. In large Dutch cities like Amsterdam, Haarlem and Leiden the peat that was brought into the city had to be taken to the Peat Porters Guild. The peat merchant brought his ship to the peat market were it was reported to officials of the Peat Porters guild. These officials (an inspector and an overseer) took control of unloading and transporting the peat. The work was divided along the several guild members:
- peat pickers (Dutch= 'turfraapsters): usually women who put the peat in the ships into baskets

- peat (Dutch= 'turfhevers'): men who carried the peat baskets to ashore and dumped the peat into offical barrels
- peat fillers (Dutch= 'turfvulders' of turftonders'): they ensured that the peat barrels were filled to an offical level (peat was sold per barrel)  
- peat carriers (Dutch= 'turfdragers'): they carried the peat to the customers of the peat merchants

The costs for unloading the ships by the guild had to be paid by the peat merchant to the guild. Because of these costs could be very high (the onloading cost raised the price with 10%), peat merchants sometimes tried to sell peat outside of the guild which was illegal. The Peat Porters Guild was usually one of the largest guilds in a city as the demand for peat was very high. The guild also had the largest amount of women in their ranks (the women would put the peat in the ships into the barrels) and its members also helped the firebrigade of a town (as the peat carriers had to deliver the peat throughout a city, they were familiar with the streetplan of a city). Present on the painting are the directors of the Peat Porters Guild in Leiden - the man with the hat in the middle is the chairman and probably several peat inspectors. The painting behind the men shows the trade of the guild: the unloading of peat. Paiting from 1677.

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