At the miller’s home
It seems like a privilege: living at your workplace. But if wind and rain determine your schedule and you are employed by the polder 24/7, it will quickly become less attractive. If the polder water was not yet ‘up to standard’ and the wind was favorable, the miller would quietly feed several days in succession. Whoever thinks he was ready afterwards, is mistaken. Because the miller’s wages amounted to a maximum of 45 euros per year, the miller hired himself whenever he could as a laborer. The house itself also left much to be desired. Because no matter how beautiful such a windmill looks, poor insulation, draft and moisture did not make the living comfort any better. In the absence of a kitchen, it was cooked over an open fire or on a stove. Rising smoke and soot made the first floor uninhabitable. Two bedsteads served as a sleeping place for the whole family. Rainwater served as drinking water, the toilet was above the ditch and the washing place was along the waterfront … Life in and around the mill was hard.
Initially the miller family only occupied half of the ground floor. Because until the beginning of the 19th century, the mills were still equipped with a paddle wheel, water shaft and water wheel. Only when they were replaced by a mortar, the family could use the entire ground floor and the living comfort became slightly more generous.
Good and bad mills
The miller had some privileges: his lodging was free and he received peat, candles and petroleum from the polder board. He was also allowed to use a piece of land as a vegetable garden or to feed some cattle. Mills with a lot of soil were known as good mills, mills with little soil were bad mills. If a vacancy arose, promotion from a bad to a good mill was possible.
Due to poor hygiene and public health, the miller families were not very big in the past. Many children died at a young age and people were old early because of the heavy work. Back then it was very common to have a grandparent in the family. And upon the death of the miller or his wife, it was customary to employ a servant or maid, which eventually also married.
Life in and around the mill was hard. The location was often remote and provided limited accessibility. The miller’s trade was not very popular and the miller fell under the strict regime of the local polder board. Misconduct was fined, followed by resignation after repetition. Because shielding of the rotating mill parts was missing, accidents regularly occurred. Fortunately, working with the seasons compensated a lot – monotonously the miller’s work was not in any case.
1636 VL Schermerhorn
Tel: +31 (0)72 303 0246
Photography: Fred Oudejans, Ingrid Schatz
Restauration videofootage: JOIR Design
Drone videography: John van Dieken
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