Evere’s Windmill and its cultural heartbeat

An old windmill in the heart of Evere

Evere, one of Brussels’s districts, houses an old windmill, which is part of the Belgian cultural heritage. The Belgians claim that it is one of the last old windmills in Brussels, which ceased its activity following the development of the industrial milling.

Today the windmill is a living example of the traditional architecture of Brussels and reminds the old rural configuration of the district, which was a village before joining Brussels Region.

EvereMill02bis

The windmill was built in 1841 and provided traditional grinding until 1885. In the 20th century the mill owners focused on manufacturing spices.

The traditional mill wings were removed around 1886 as the owners introduced the latest technologies of the time, a steam engine with powerful cylinders.

There were several reasons which made the mill one of the most modern constructions of that time:

  • It is made out of bricks, which was a genuine novelty of the time, as most of the windmills in the region were made out of wood.
  • Its wings rotated without moving the entire mill body.
  • The grain bags were mounted on the top floors by a pull-bag system connected to the wings.
  • The grains were ground on the third floor.
  • The flour was bagged on the second floor and stored on the first floor.

A cultural centre with a rustic look and feel

As the windmill was abandoned, it deteriorated quickly over the years. In the 90’s the Evere’s administration decided to buy it and transform it into a cultural centre to transfer it to the Belgian National Heritage.

EvereMill05

Renovated between 2006 and 2008, Evere’s windmill houses a permanent exhibition, a number of temporary exhibitions, a conference room and a special area dedicated to children’s entertaining activities.

Along with its garden and courtyard, Evere’s Windmill is an oasis in time and space. It is worth paying a visit.

Vivid childhood memories

Visiting Evere’s Windmill I realised that people used to run similar activities, no matter the geographical space or the time period. The visit as such brought me back in time to the years when I used to go to the mill in the village I grew up.

My brother and myself were assigned the job of grinding both wheat and corn grains and fetch the flour home.

We often asked neighbours to help us with a horse or a donkey and carriage to help carry the grain bags. It took us about 30 minutes to get to the mill. We always looked forward to enjoying the mill’s magic smell, that smell of cereal grains turned into flour. I always remember that smell, a sort of mystic reference of my childhood, which I always associated it with wealth, safety and stability.

As I child I was fascinated by that powerful machine, which did the job of getting the meal basics for us and for our animals.

We headed to the mill only if the engine noise was on. This was the sign all village people knew that the mill was on. If no mill noise was heard around, it meant that the mill is either off or the miller was busy fixing something.

The mill noise was part of the village life. Many people said that the noise was the village heartbeat, a sort of background music that they really enjoyed.

Our village mill used a traditional engine to grind the grains. Windmills were uncommon in my home country. Most of the village people could not afford to buy ready-made bread and other related meals, but they used to go to the mill to grind their own wheat and corn grains. It was common practice to run the food making workflow from the grain stage to baking and eating stages.

There was only one way we could pay for the job. We used to leave a percentage of the grains, the so-called “miller’s toll”, a compensation for the miller’s job to make the flour.

I heard that my village mill closed shortly after 1990. People found that grinding grains is old fashioned and, instead, they preferred to buy flour from the shops.

The visit of Evere’s Windmill was a rediscovery journey which enabled me to bridge cultural similarities and traditional customs from my home country and my adoptive country.

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