The windmills of our Meetjesland

"Toatse Meuln" alias Taets 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 more recent name, Pietendries Mill, 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 could 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" (Wilderness).  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 beam called the post.  The post of Toatse Mill is elm.  When the miller wants the sails to face the wind the whole mill has to be turned on its post.

To turn the sails of a tower mill into the eye of the wind only the cap has to be turned.  In our regions nearly all tower mills were made of stone.  (Maldegem's tower mill was a wooden octogonal construction.)  Tower mills and stone mills 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 post 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 post, cross trees and quarterbars that make up the support of the mill are called the trestle.

The trestle of Toatse Mill is protected by what is called a roundhouse, except that the roundhouse of Toatse Mill is octogonal in shape.  From 1984 until 2010 it was covered with the kind of roofing tiles that not so long ago you saw everywhere in Flanders.  That of course was taking liberties with history: in 1804 this mill was clearly not built with a closed roundhouse.  And in any case these roofing tiles don't gladly support sacks of wheat or meal coming down on them.

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).

Until recently the mill was called "Toatse Meuln" by the locals.  "Meuln", in Dutch "molen" means mill and "Toatse" or "van Toats" means belonging to Taets.  Who then invented this new name... Pietendries Mill ?  And for what reason ?  To make sure we all forget about a great family of millers ?  Without Henri Taets and his dad this mill would have disappeared long ago.

Henri Taets 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 Toatse 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 ?  From now on the mill is open every Saturday from 10 to 5 :  bakers, housewives and schools come here to buy flour, meal, bread mixes, waffel mixes, muesli and much much more, nothing but good honest bio products.

Henry Taets can rest in peace: he was not the last miller.  If only he could know: his mill is in good repair and in the capable hands of Mike Ekelschot.  And... once again regularly doing an honest day's work.  Mike is the only fulltime professional miller in East-Flanders using an "old-fashioned" windmill.  We wish him and his mill all the very best... for many more years.

And then, end 2014 Mike bought the Artemeers Mill.  We congratulate him on his purchase and wish him sunshine, fair wind in his sails and good sales of his Flourpower products.  And we hope Knesselare will do all it can to find the sooner the better another miller to replace Mike because it not good for a mill not to turn.

For those of you who master the Dutch language you can read in the MolenEchos website the whole fascinating story of this windmill.  And here we have an article about this mill, also called the Pietendries Mill, published in the periodical «Ons Meetjesland».

Many thanks to Mr. Mike Ekelschot for his invaluable help: he pointed out our errors in the above text, clarified other points and filled some of the gaping holes in our knowledge of windmills.

More pictures of Toatse Mill

All about the windmills of our Meetjesland
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Most recent update :  22-04-2021
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