Mills in Kinderdijk-Elshout (World Heritage)

Mills in Kinderdijk-Elshout

The 19 windmills near Rotterdam were built in the 18th century for drainage and water regulation. They illustrate the efforts of the population in the fight against the threat of flooding. The mills operated until the middle of the 20th century before they were replaced by electric pumps. According to aristmarketing, today they testify to the hydraulic engineering culture of the Netherlands.

Mills in Kinderdijk-Elshout: facts

Official title: Mills in Kinderdijk-Elshout
Cultural monument: 19 polder mills built to drain the polders and to regulate water, including the “Lage Molen” and the “Hoge Molen” as well as “De Blokker”, a windmill with a “wasp waist” due to the pyramidal substructure
Continent: Europe
Country: Netherlands
Location: Kinderdijk-Elshout, southeast of Rotterdam
Appointment: 1997
Meaning: Symbol for the struggle of the Dutch against the forces of the water

Mills in Kinderdijk-Elshout: history

1676 Construction of the country house on Lekdijk for the »water community councils«
1738 Construction of the round mills of the water board “De Nedderwaard”
1740 Construction of the thatched, octagonal mills of the water board “De Overwaard” and construction of the “Hoge Molen”
1761 Construction of the »Lage Molen«
1766 Enlargement of the »bosom« of »De Overwaard« to accommodate the pumped water
1868 Establishment of an electrically operated pumping station
1950 De Overwaard mills ceased to operate
1953 Construction of another electric pumping station
1956 Closure of the mill “De Blokker”
1971 Construction of a new pumping station by »De Nedderwaard«

No rattling of the mill, no rushing brook

“The mill rattles on the rushing brook” – so it is said in a well-known German folk tune. But if you visit our western neighbors, you will look in vain for such an idyll. The rattling of the mill wheel and the rustling of the sails in the wind have mostly stopped. As Dutch postcard motifs, mills cannot even be imagined in the urban agglomeration between Amsterdam and Rotterdam: Like tin soldiers, those from Kinderdijk line up in the middle of the lush green, are covered by the pigeon blue of the evening sky, are silhouetted in the red of the setting sun.

In a country that is up to six meters below sea level and exposed to the violence of the tides, its residents have struggled with the tides for centuries. The threat of flood disasters was part of everyday life; it became just as sad a reality during the St. Elisabeth flood in 1421 as it did in 1953, when the Ablasserwaard, in which Kinderdijk is located, was under water for the last time. The construction of locks, dams and dykes, but above all ambitious companies like the Zuiderzee project, were successful attempts to defy the water. As early as the 15th century, the Dutch developed the first pumping stations from the grain mills, which “ground water” using wind power in order to drain the deep polders. At the beginning of the 17th century, Simon Stevin refined the technique of polder drainage.

Trapped between the Lek and Wal rivers, octagonal and conical ground ropes rise above the flat land. Their wings stop turning all year round, and most of the sails are gathered. Only on weekends does the wind still catch itself in the covered wings of a visitor’s mill. But even mills that are at a standstill are not “dumb”: By placing their wings crosswise, they betray the rest of their work. It has returned to the Ablasserwaard since modern pumping stations were in operation. Among the brick-built windmills, whose respective cap and wings can be turned into the wind and whose wings reach almost to the ground, one comes across a further development of the post mill. “De Blokker”, a mill with a pyramidal base, is a so-called coke mill. By drilling through the heavy post of a post mill, similar to a quiver (Koker), several gears could be attached to the axis running downwards in the Koker, which drive bucket wheels or Archimedes’ screws for pumping water from deeper terrain into higher ditches. The superstructure of the mill, which rests on a “wasp waist”, can be turned into the wind in a similar way to the cap of a basic rope in order to fully utilize the power of the wind.

In Kinderdijk-Elshout, the “grinding of the water” took place in two stages. The lower polder mills drew the water into the lower canal – called in Dutch “lage boezem”, “lower bosom”. From there, the water was drawn through another watermill, the »Boezemmolen«, into a higher canal – »hoge boezem« – so that it could be drained from here via a lock passage into the Lek when the tide was low. In winter as in summer, it was the miller’s job to regulate the water level in order to be able to use the polders optimally for agriculture. Water was also drawn out during the night, but then only one miller kept watch. If the wind turned or increased, all the other millers were woken up too, as the mill caps had to be turned quickly or the sails gathered up. With the meager earnings alone – despite free lodging in the mill – no meat pot could be placed on the family’s table, so that the cutting and sale of reed, but also the cultivation of vegetables, is intended for personal use and for sale had to supplement the miller’s meager income. But all of this is long in the past. In the computer age, the “Wassermüller” profession has disappeared; modern pumping stations are now the guarantee for dry polders. In the computer age, the “Wassermüller” profession has disappeared; modern pumping stations are now the guarantee for dry polders. In the computer age, the “Wassermüller” profession has disappeared; modern pumping stations are now the guarantee for dry polders.

Mills in Kinderdijk-Elshout