Pietendries or Toatse Mill
The Meetjesland in the north of East-Flanders, Belgium


The Pietendries or Toatse Mill

There was a mill here already in 1563.  A mill is shown on a map drawn up when the Bruges Canal was dug in 1651.  It's in Knesselare on the border with Aalter and Ursel.  It was the successor of the East Mill that stood in Aalter.  Its name comes from the "Ter Pieten" Estate which belonged to a religious order.  It was built near the long gone Piet Chapel (The "ie" in Piet and in dries is pronounced like in pete or peat.)  A "dries" was a common where the common man was allowed to graze his goat or cow.

During the Ancien Regime the land and the mill on it were the property of the Lord of the Land of the "Woestijne" (Desert).  The mill we can see here now—and visit—was rebuilt in 1804 after suffering heavy damage in a storm: in fact it was thrown to the ground.  It is the oldest post mill in the whole region.  A post mill is literally hung up on and built around a central post called the canister.  The canister in the Pietendries Mill is elm.  When the miller wants the wings to face the wind the whole mill has to be turned on its canister.

To turn the wings of a tower mill into the eye of the wind only the cap has to be turned.  In our regions tower mills were made of stone.  They are sturdier and usually higher and therefore more efficient.  But also much more expensive to build.  See here for a great example of a tower mill. 

The canister stands on two horizontal beams as if on a cross and the beams that make up this cross rest on 4 supports usually of brick. The beams and piers that make up the support of the mill are called the trestle.  The trestle of the Pietendries Mill is protected by what is called a roundhouse, except that the roundhouse of the Pietendries Mill is octogonal in shape.  It was until 2010 covered with the kind of roofing tiles that not so long ago you saw everywhere in Flanders.

Here are the names of some of the millers who worked the mill: Jan Braet (1645), the widow of Christiaan Braet (1665), Karel Heytens (1667), Martijn Dhaenens (1668), Mathijs Serlippens (1669), Servaas De Poorter (1676), Jan Goethals, who came from Sijsele, (1707), Joannes Kerckaert (1730-32), Pieter-Jacob Hertschap (1741), Pieter Herschap (1777), the de Weirt family (1782-1794), the Gernaeys family (1818-1867), Pieter-Bernardus De Bruyckere (1867-1877), Petrus Taets-Martens (1880-1920).

More recently the mill was also called "Toatse Meuln" by the locals.  "Meuln", in Dutch "molen" means mill and "Toatse" or "van Toats" means belonging to Taets.

Its last fulltime miller was Henri Taets.  He was born in 1922.  He was a very pious man.  He loved his mill very dearly and was known far and wide for his intelligence and professionalism.  Other millers who had a problem with their mill could always count on him.  He also knew a thing or two about the weather and kept a "weather book".  He did a lot of repairs on his mill himself.  He died aged 84 on 31 December 1965.  He had worked his mill until well into his 83rd year when he became too ill to continue.  It pained him very deeply to know his mill stood idle and was kept waiting for the important repairs it so badly needed.

On 11 September 1968 the Pietendries Mill became a listed monument.  It was acquired by Knesselare town in 1974.  It was thoroughly restored from 1978 till 1983.  It has two pairs of French millstones.

Marc De Vlieger opened the mill on many Sundays.  After more work on it Marc was succeeded by Maarten Osstyn and Mike Ekelschot, two young millers full of enthousiasm.  If you have a sack of wheat they'll mill it for you—wind permitting of course.  And for those who don't have a sack of anything ?  On most Sundays you can buy a whole range of excellent products all milled here.

Henry Taets can rest in peace.  If only he could know: his mill is in good repair and in good hands.  And... once again regularly doing an honest day's work.  Let's hope they keep it that way.

For those of you who master the Dutch language you can read here all about this great mill.  And if you want more information you can write to info@toatsemeuln.be.

More pictures of the Pietendries Mill

About the windmills of our Meetjesland
Our list of the windmills of our Meetjesland
All about Knesselare



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Most recent update :  24-03-2020





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