The Dutch used different types of windmills to perform tasks prior to the Industrial Revolution. Here are popular mill (‘molen’) constructions found in Holland…
There are over 1200 original windmills that are still standing in the Netherlands. The province of South Holland is home to the largest number of mills, 230, which includes the 19 UNESCO-protected windmills of Kinderdijk. Gelderland, North Holland, North Brabant and Friesland all have over 100 windmills.
Dutch windmills can be broken down into 4 general categories:
- POST MILLS – The ‘post’ mill was the earliest form of windmill to be used in the Netherlands (and across Europe). It is characterized by its singular body section which can be rotated into the direction of the wind (with the fan attached). The functioning mechanisms are all housed within the body which itself is mounted to a singular post on which it turns. In Holland, these mills were used primarily for draining polder lands.
- HOLLOW POST MILLS – This type of windmill was also predominantly used for drainage. It was developed and put into use by the early 1400’s. The internal operation is different between a post mill and hollow post mill. Most hollow post mills have a short upper body which sits upon a pyramid shaped base.
- SMOCK GROUND SAILER MILLS – ‘Smock’ is a reference to the silhouette of these windmills, which resemble an apron or smock. These mills are usually pentagon-shaped with anywhere from 5-8 sides and was constructed of wood. The exterior was often thatched. ‘Ground sailer’ referred to the mill’s fan blades which nearly reached the ground. This type of mill is the oldest in Holland and the one most people commonly associate with traditional Dutch windmills. They had many uses during the pre-industrial age, but the predominant purpose of these mills was for draining polder lands.There are also a small number of hybrid ‘smock-stage’ mills also in the Netherlands.
- TOWER STAGE MILLS – The tallest windmills in Holland fall into the ‘tower stage’ category. The mills are cylindrical in shape, with a stone or brick exterior. Due to their weight, they were rarely constructed on soft polder land but rather were built primarily in urban areas and used for grinding corn, wheat and barley into flour, yeast and other products for baking. The tower mills that were built in the 1700’s in Schiedam ground up grain and barley to be used in the production of Jenever (the Dutch version of gin). ‘Stage’ refers to the elevated platform that surrounds the exterior, which allowed the miller to still reach the blades even though they were attached much higher than on regular polder windmills. The additional height was needed to ensure surrounding buildings did not block the flow of air needed to turn the sails. The tower stage mills in Schiedam reach up to 33 meters.