It’s one of the first things somebody will think about when Holland is mentioned… Cheese, clogs, tulips and… WINDMILLS!
Before the industrial revolution dawned with the invention of the steam engine, the Dutch relied on the wind to power their industry. What else to do in a flat country with its ever stormy weather?
The remnants of this ‘wood-mechanical’ age are found all over the land. They served different functions: grinding grains into flour, pressing oil, making paper, grinding pigments, pumping water, sawing wood. And although many of them disappeared, the ones that remain are cherished and restored by an army of windmill enthusiasts.
Last week I was selecting some old pictures for a lecture about “Art and Craft” in my old hometown of Langbroek, when I found this one. It was made around 1905 and depicts the old windmill. According to the history books the mill, named “Windlust” was built in 1701. It was used to grind corn into four.
In the 1920’s this function would be taken over by a more modern flour factory on the other end of the village. The mill wasn’t used anymore (it already was quite worn out) and was broken down. At the spot were the mill was located there is nothing that reminds of it.
I contacted one of my friends who is a windmill enthusiast. He is a screen printer by trade, but a miller in his free time. We discussed the possibilities of rebuilding the mill. Would it be possible? They had done it in other villages, making it a social project. But what would be the costs? Would it be possible to fund it entirely out of sponsoring? Or would it be better just put up a little sign with a picture of the mill at the site?
At the lecture I discussed this idea, but there wasn’t a lot of response. So the sign-idea will probably be more within reach. After all there already are two old mills in nearby towns.On the other hand it would be one of an entirely different type, completely made of wood, where the others are made of stone (one is built on a gate in the city wall).
Making a mill reminds more of ship building than barn construction. Just like building a French workbench has more to do with making a barn than making furniture. Besides being a building, a windmill is simply a very large machine, driven by wind. Everything is utilitarian, almost no unnecessary frills. The frame is made to withstand the stresses of wind from different directions and the movement of the large axles and wheels. Simple and evolved over time.
Visiting these old machines is always a source of inspiration for me. A reminder to make things simple and lasting. The people who work with them are often very driven and passionate. They love to explain and tell about the things they do.