History Of The Dutch Windmills

windmills in the netherlands

History Of The Dutch Windmills

History Of The Dutch Windmills

(Last Updated On: December 5, 2023)

Dutch Windmills

The Netherlands is a country steeped in history, especially evident through its iconic 1000 Dutch windmills. Celebrated annually on May 12th and 13th as National Mill Day, these historical marvels open their doors to the public, offering a glimpse into their significance. Amidst the allure of bicycles and the scenic beauty of Amsterdam, these windmills stand as cherished industrial monuments.

Dating back to the 17th and 19th centuries, these windmills in South Holland hold a special place in Dutch history. They symbolize the ingenuity of the Dutch people, particularly in managing water levels in the lowlands. Utilizing wind power, the polder mills were not only instrumental in milling grains but also in pumping water from the low-lying areas back into the rivers, reshaping the landscape for agriculture.

These historic windmills served as the backbone of the region, enabling the transformation of raw materials like maize and paper into tradeable goods. Among them, the famous Wilhelmina Tulip Garden stands as a testament to the innovative use of wind power, fostering both practical and aesthetic wonders. These structures remain emblematic of Dutch engineering prowess, shaping not just their industry but the very geography of the country.

Dutch windmills
holland windmill

When Did The Dutch Started Using WindMills?

In the realm of famous windmills, Dutch landscapes boast some of the most beautiful and iconic structures globally. These magnificent and traditional windmills have a rich history dating back to the 11th century. Initially serving various purposes such as drainage under the ownership of water boards or industrial functions managed by millers, these windmills were once around 10,000 in number. However, today only about 1000 remain operational, showcasing a blend of traditional techniques and modern technology.

The Dutch cityscape is often associated with these iconic structures, reflecting both historical significance and the innovation in water management. These windmills were pivotal in managing water levels and have become synonymous with the Netherlands’ landscape. Today, while some continue to serve traditional purposes, others have embraced modern technology, integrating updated mechanisms for more efficient operations.

As for the types of windmills, they vary in function and design, each with its unique contribution to the country’s history and development. From the traditional grain mills to those focused on industrial production, these structures have stood the test of time and technological advancement, symbolizing the resilience and adaptability of Dutch engineering.

History Of The Dutch Windmills

If you wish to visit Holland to explore the history of windmills but can’t, we will take you to these interesting monuments through our guide.

The Oldest WindMill

Historical records reveal that the oldest standing windmill in the Netherlands is the Zeddam Tower Mill, located in the province of Gelderland. Constructed in the 15th century, this mill was a property of the Ducal Van Dan Bergh family. Notably, during World War II, it served as a refuge for many seeking shelter; its walls harbored those seeking safety. Interestingly, remnants of that era endure within its walls—an attic still bears witness to a Canadian radio transmitter, left behind by soldiers during the war. This magnificent piece of history stands as a testament to the resilience of the Dutch landscape, adorned with beautiful and iconic windmills that have marked the 16th, 17th, and 20th centuries. Amidst Dutch cities known for their polder mills, paper mills, and breathtaking landscapes, the Zeddam Tower Mill stands proud, symbolizing the enduring legacy of these structures within the rich tapestry of the country’s history.

The Highest Windmill

Molen De Noord is the name of the highest mill in Schiedam. 33 meters high, this one is one of the 19 Gigantic windmills which were used by the Gin Making industry.

The Kinderjink Windmill Network

The 19 Windmills in Kinderjink were built around the 18th century to pump water from the lands. They were critically built to create a series of pumps to drain massive loads of water. Today, the sites are protected by UNESCO as World Heritage.

Dutch Windmill Messaging And Communication System

In the early times, Dutch villages used the sails of a mill to communicate via signs. Sailing a mill to a certain position would indicate messages of grief and joy and they were comprehended by all the people in the Netherlands.

Even today, these mills stand in grieving positions when there is a national day or event of mourning or loss.

Architecture Of The Windmills

The design, built and structure, all are varied. There are many different types of constructions that were used in building these mills.

The Standerdmolen or post mill is the form that can be seen in the Netherlands. This type of mill came into existence in the 13th century. With their wooden body, they take full advantage of the winds. The windlust Post Mill in Nisterode is an example of this kind.

Another kind is the Stellingmolen or smock mill. The De Gooyer is a smock mill in Amsterdam. Grondzeiler is a kind of smock mill whose sails almost touch the ground. These were considered dangerous as they could potentially hurt birds, animals, and people while being functional.  The Achlumer mill in Achlum is a Grondzeiler.

Windmills In Art

A mill was such an important part of the Dutch landscape that it was prominently featured in paintings and illustrations. Artists captured the essence of these magnificent windmills, portraying their beauty and grandeur against the backdrop of the picturesque countryside. They not only portrayed the beauty and reality of the region but also depicted the resilience and determination symbolized by the polder windmills. The windmill stood as an emblem of strength, signifying our ability to keep our lands dry, our people safe, and our nation strong.

windmills in holland

Windmill In Speech

Dutch people have such a deep connection with Windmills that they are also found in many sayings. One of the quotes is Walking with the mills, which means to be a little crazy as does. Another one goes like, to be hit by sails. Then there is one that is used to imply the trustworthiness of a person, it is said as, Not all millers are thieves.

Decline In The Use

With 397 drainage mills, 594 Industrial and corn mills, the total goes to 991 working mills in the country.

The discovery of steam power at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution caused a decline in their usage. Even though, the Dutch were reluctant in the start, as the wind towers kept their feet dry for centuries but eventually, they came to the realization that using steam power pumps is definitely more beneficial and efficient. Due to neglect and ill maintenance, many mills got destroyed and damaged.

Top Places For A Mill Lover

Kinderjink is listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO and the 19 Grondzeilers are all worth watching and exploring. They pumped the older water and their significance is matchless in forming the geography of the region.

Zaanse Schan is another popular tourist attraction. There are many working industrial mills here and many other historical monuments can also be seen here. You can have the true experience of spending a night in a mill. There are many bed and breakfast hotels here that allow you to enjoy the true spirit of the region. You can check them out and book them for a night or two before visiting the Zans.

The New Mills Of Netherlands

The new ones are Wind turbines. Around 289 are situated offshore. Currently, the number of total wind turbines is 3,000 and around 5% of the total Dutch electricity is produced by them.

If you are not a Dutch speaker and are worried that the natives won’t understand your tongue, you can check out the translation apps that help you learn Dutch quickly. But if you are an English speaker, you are good to go as more than 90% of the population can converse in English. English is taught in Dutch schools and recently, the Dutch have been regarded as the most proficient English speakers in Europe.

Linguistically English and Dutch are both Germanic languages. Dutch is the closest to English and both languages have mutually intelligible words and terms. Apart from English and Dutch, German has also spoken here along with many regional lingos.

So whether you are an English, German or Dutch speaker, you are safe in Dutch for communications. However, if you are not good at these languages and want to learn a few phrases and words of daily use before going there, you can get help with a language program or by taking Dutch as a language at your university. Youtube tutorials for pronunciation and speaking are also a good option for you to start your learning journey.

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