Last week I had the opportunity to scrutinise a windmill. Finally came face-to-face with the so familiar object of Delft decorations and Dutch paintings.
|Delft tile panel.|
|The windmill at Wijkbijduurstede (1670) by Jacob Isaacks Zon van Ruisdael.|
Windmills have been around for at least 1,300 years. The first windmills had vertical shafts and were reportedly built in Persia around the 7th century AD. Made of six to twelve sails covered in fabric or palm leaves, they were used to grind corn and draw up water. A similar type of vertical shaft windmill can also be found in 13th century China.
In Europe, windmills were developed in the Middle Ages. The earliest mills were probably grinding mills; therefor the name. The name stuck when in the course of history, windmill machinery was adapted to supply power for many industrial and agricultural needs other than milling.
The whole body of the windmill rotated on the central post, in order to face the wind. To allow this to happen, a tailpole or tiller beam extended from the rear of the body. By pushing on this beam (or by using some form of winch or animal power) the miller rotated his mill. The tailpole also provides a useful attachment point for a ladder to provide access to the mill.
The smock mill is a type of windmill that consists of a sloping, horizontally weatherboarded tower, usually with six or eight sides. It is topped with a roof or cap that rotates to bring the sails into the wind. This type of windmill got its name from its resemblance to smocks worn by farmers in an earlier period.
|A windmill in the background at the Aarhus Old City.|
|The ladder (on the right side of the picture) provides access to the mill, |
and is also the handle of the beam that rotate the mill.