Why Are The Dutch Known For Windmills?
One of the most well-known national symbols of The Netherlands is the windmill. In order to learn more about this fascinating Dutch icon, I looked into the history of windmills in The Netherlands, where I currently reside.
Continue reading to discover more about The Netherlands’ fascinating history of windmills.
Netherlands Is Known For The Windmills, But Why?
Let’s begin by addressing the most pertinent query. What were these Dutch windmills used for, and why are there so many of them in The Netherlands?
Because they were necessary to drain water from their low-lying land below sea level, the Dutch are known for their windmills. Dutch windmills were also employed in the manufacturing of paper and paint, as well as the sawing of wood and the grinding of grain.
The cogwheels in Dutch windmills are turned by the wind’s energy. Industrial processes that were too heavy or lengthy for people to handle were driven by these connected rotating cogwheels.
In order for the Dutch to survive and prosper in their low-lying country below sea level, windmills had to perform several essential tasks. The Netherlands had more than 10.000 operating windmills at its height.
The ongoing drainage of water was the most important task for Dutch windmills because 26% of the country is below sea level. As a result, approximately 5 trillion gallons of water must be pumped out each year to prevent flooding in the Netherlands’ low-lying areas.
The Dutch were able to build wooden ships on an industrial scale and develop into a great maritime nation thanks to wind-powered sawmills. The Netherlands dominated the world seas in the 17th century and rose to incredible wealth and power thanks to the industrial-scale shipbuilding industry.
To feed the Netherlands’ rapidly expanding population, additional industrial processes, such as grinding spices and grains, were required. One of the first industrialized regions in the world, Zaanse Schans, saw the beginning of large-scale industrial processes in the 17th century.
In Zaanse Schans, windmills were used to saw wood, grind spices, and make paint, mustard, cacao, flour, and paper. For instance, the paper used to write the American Declaration of Independence was created by a windmill in the Zaanstreek.
Number of windmills in the Netherlands?
The Netherlands had more than 10.000 operating windmills at its height. One of the first industrialized regions in the world, Zaanse Schans, saw the beginning of large-scale industrial processes in the 17th century.
In The Netherlands, 1050 of the original 10.000 traditional Dutch windmills are still in operation. The iconic symbols of our country’s Dutch heritage are kept in good condition by volunteers even though they are no longer used for industrial purposes.
In addition, the Netherlands in 2021 had more than 2600 contemporary wind turbines that were producing sustainable electricity. 40% of these contemporary wind turbines are based in the North Sea, and the remaining 60% are situated on land. In The Netherlands, the number of wind turbines increases by 10 to 15% every year.
When Did The Dutch Start Using Windmills?
It may appear that the Dutch have always used windmills given their abundance and the crucial role they play in helping The Netherlands drain its low-lying land, but this is not the case.
In The Netherlands, windmills have been in use since the 12th century. Grain grinding was done at first with the aid of windmills. Later, as the need for agricultural land grew with rising populations and wealth, windmills were also used to reclaim land from lakes and marshes.
The Netherlands’ phenomenal rise in wealth during the 17th century gave the country the resources it needed to fund the extensive reclamation of agricultural land through the drainage of the large lakes north of Amsterdam. In order to drain these lakes, the number of windmills significantly increased.
The first instance of extensive land reclamation to create fertile soil for agriculture was the drainage of the Beemster lake by 42 windmills in 1612. Currently, the Beemster polder is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Other lakes north of Amsterdam, such as the Wijde Wormer (1620), the Purmer (1622), the Schermer (1635), and the Heerhugowaard (1638), were also drained by windmills (1630). During this time, a large portion of the land to the north of Amsterdam was reclaimed and has remained dry ever since.
The lakes that windmills drained in the 17th century, however, were comparatively small and shallow. Land reclamation from larger and deeper lakes, which happened centuries later, required steam power.
For instance, Schiphol Airport’s location at the Haarlemmermeer was only reclaimed in the middle of the 19th century. Instead of the 166 windmills that would otherwise be needed to drain the Haarlemmermeer, three enormous steam-powered mills did the job.
This massive reclamation project represented steam power’s breakthrough application in The Netherlands. From that point on, the use of windmills in industrial processes began to fall off quickly.
Did the dutch invent windmills?
It may appear that the Dutch invented windmills because there are so many of them in the Netherlands, but this is untrue.
The windmill was not created by the Dutch. However, the Dutch were early adopters of windmill technology and made significant advancements.
Since windmills were so important to the Dutch, they made a lot of effort to advance windmill technology. As a result, the Dutch developed three brilliant modifications to boost the effectiveness of windmills.
First, the Dutch divided a windmill into a lower and an upper part, which was a seemingly simple but important improvement. This change offered two benefits.
The efficiency of windmills could be greatly increased by quickly turning the upper portion (with the sails) in the direction of the wind. Additionally, storage space was now available in the lower portion of windmills.
Second, the Dutch made a sizable improvement to the system that made industrial processes independent of the direction of the wind. It would be best to once visit a windmill to marvel at the clever cogwheel system in order to fully understand these inventions made during those years.
Third, the rotating motion in a windmill was converted into the “back and forth” motion required to saw wood by applying a crankshaft. The development of sawmills was made possible by crankshafts, and in The Netherlands, the first sawmill was built in 1594 by the Dutchman Cornelis Corneliszoon.
Because ships were made of wood, the shipbuilding industry made extensive use of wind-powered sawmills. The development of sawmills was essential to The Netherlands’ economic revival in the 16th and 17th centuries. Sawmills enabled the Dutch to industrialize shipbuilding and establish themselves as a great maritime power.
What Were Dutch Windmills Used For?
In the Netherlands, there were about 9,000 windmills operating at their peak for a variety of industrial uses.
In The Netherlands, windmills served three crucial purposes:
- In order to keep water off of land below sea level, windmills were used to reclaim land.
- The Dutch were able to build wooden ships on an industrial scale and develop into a great maritime nation thanks to wind-powered sawmills.
- Additionally, windmills were employed in the manufacturing of paint, oil, mustard, and paper, as well as the crushing of grains or spices.
How Do Dutch Windmills Work?
In order to survive on their low-lying land below sea level, the Netherlands relied heavily on the pumping of water by their windmills.
By converting wind energy into the rotation of an Archimedean screw, a Dutch windmill moves water. Water from low-lying land is pumped 2–5 meters higher and drained into rivers so that it can flow back toward the sea.
It is quite clever how the internal windmill drives the rotation of an Archimedean screw through connected rotating cogwheels. An excellent explanation of how windmill cogwheels drive an Archimedean screw can be found in the YouTube video down below.
Can You Visit A Windmill In The Netherlands?
The Netherlands has many windmills that are accessible to the public all year long, so you can go see one there. There are still many working Dutch mills, and tours with guides are frequently available. A Dutch windmill is frequently free to visit.
Even some windmills have eateries where you can get food and beverages. Additionally, some mills have a museum or a store where you can purchase authentic mill goods. Please click on this link for more details and a list of all the mills in The Netherlands’ operating hours.
National Mill and Milling Day is celebrated in May every second Saturday (and Sunday). The 14th and 15th of May 2022 will be designated as National Mill and Milling Day. Every year, more than 600 wind and water mills open their doors for the National Mill and Milling Day.
Kinderdijk’s Windmills: Is Kinderdijk Worth Visiting?
With its 19 windmills, the Kinderdijk windmill complex plays a crucial role in the extensive hydraulic and water management network that keeps the Alblasserwaard polders dry.
The Kinderdijk windmills are interesting to see because they serve as an example of how water management is organized in The Netherlands. UNESCO has designated the Kinderdijk windmill complex as one of the Netherlands’ World Heritage Sites because it is such an inventive water management project.
Depending on the technology used, a windmill can lift water 2–5 meters. In order to get the water up to the river’s level so it can flow back to the sea, Kinderdijk uses a two-step water transportation procedure.
Where Are Windmills Near Amsterdam?
If you’re in Amsterdam and want to see some Dutch windmills close by, head over to Zaanse Schans, which is located just north of Amsterdam. It takes less than 30 minutes to travel by bus and train from Amsterdam to Zaanse Schans.
Zaanse Schans, about 8 miles north of Amsterdam, is the best location to see authentic Dutch windmills close to Amsterdam. With more than 900 windmills powering various industrial processes, the Zaanse Schans was one of the world’s first industrial areas in the 17th century.
Zaanse Schans’ windmills were used to grind spices, make paint, mustard, cacao, flour, paper, and oil, as well as saw wood. At the end of the 17th century, Peter the Great of Russia traveled to Zaanse Schans to learn more about the inventive shipbuilding sector in the Netherlands. The paper used to write the American Declaration of Independence was created by a windmill in the Zaanstreek.
A residential neighborhood from the 19th and 18th centuries has been recreated in Zaanse Schans around the windmills with wooden homes, barns, and workshops. In addition to visiting a cheese factory and eating pancakes with the kids, you can see how clogs are made. An excellent way to learn more about the Dutch culture we have traditionally practiced is at Zaanse Schans.
One of the best day trips you can take from Amsterdam is to see the windmills in Zaanse Schans and Kinderdijk. Kinderdijk is farther away from Amsterdam than Zaanse Schans.
Where Are The Highest Windmills In The Netherlands?
Schiedam has the tallest windmills in the Netherlands. Due to the city’s dense housing and other structures, these windmills had to be built so high to capture enough wind.
The enormous windmills in Schiedam are the tallest in the Netherlands and the entire world, standing 43 meters (47 yards) tall. One of the tallest Dutch windmills, Windmill de Valk, stands at a height of 29 meters in the middle of Leiden (31,7 yards).
Nearby Rotterdam is the city of Schiedam, which has a distinguished industrial past. For instance, Schiedam once had more than 30 extremely tall windmills that crushed the grains used to make genever industrially.
Fortunately, Schiedam has five of these enormous windmills that have been expertly restored.
The lower portion of the windmill, which was larger and used for production and storage, was another benefit of building higher windmills.
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By: Travel Pixy