The Dutch windmill society

In various contexts the name of this society has been mentioned in the present booklet, and perhaps it is now the right moment to give an account of the activities of this society, an association for the preservation of windmills in the Netherlands.

Ever since its establishment the Society has stirred up public opinion and pointed to the great loss which the Netherlands would suffer if windmills were to disappear, and to the spiritual and material impoverishment that would result from it. The competition held in 1924, which has been referred to previously, led to several improvements in the construction of certain components of windmills.

In the numerous petitions addressed in the course of the years to ministerial and other government bodies the Society again and again has advocated the preservation of specified mill complexes and mills, with varying success. But one great permanent result was achieved: a great many eyes were opened to what is at stake. It led to a more general recognition and appreciation of the beauty of windmill scenery in the Netherlands, and this resulted in aid from the most diverse quarters. The aid was given not only in the form of sympathetic cooperation from different sides, but also in financial contributions from private persons and government agencies. Central, provincial, and municipal authorities not only support the Society as such with their contributions, but the numerous restorations of the windmills themselves would not have been possible without the considerable grants-in-aid made available for them by the authorities. The first condition is always that the owner, whether a private person or a polder, has to bear a part of the expense. The Society takes preparatory measures for such restorations, brings the interested parties together, gives its opinion, draws up estimates, supervises the work. Parties are thus sure that in each case this work is performed in an impartial and expert way, and that the money is well spent.

Soon after its establishment the Society had gained the confidence of all and this has always remained so. Millers as well as mill owners, who meet with difficulties in running a windmill or find that restoration is needed, regularly apply to the Society for advice.

Annually on the first Saturday in March the general members' meeting is held, and some hundreds of persons from different parts of the Netherlands meet to hear the report on the fortunes of the Society during the past year and to witness the presentation of the certificates. These certificates are presented to those who have done valuable work during that year in the matter of the preservation of windmills. This encouragement is considered to have great psychological importance.

Each year an excursion is made to a different part of the country on the fourth Saturday in September, in order to visit the windmills in that area and enable members to see their interior as well.

The Society carried on a campaign for the adoption of provincial by-laws, and it is now forbidden to alter or pull down a windmill except with approval of the provincial authorities. This offers an opportunity for the institution of an impartial inquiry so as to find out whether in a given case something may be done to save the mill from demolition.

The Society has addressed several petitions to the municipalities concerned, with the consequence that frequently a windmill which was on the point of disappearing was saved by being purchased by the municipality. In this way more than one hundred windmills are now owned by municipalities; thus their continued existence and proper maintenance are ensured.

Mill owners were sometimes urged to have a good lightning conductor mounted on their mill, for which they received advice free of charge. Attention is now regularly paid to this point.

Another consequence of suggestions by the Dutch Windmill Society is the institution in a number of provinces of 'Provincial Windmill Committees', which constitute important bodies, lending their aid to the struggle for the preservation of windmills. In several provinces similar work is done by directors and officials of the Provincial Administration of Waterways and Drainage. With all these committees and officials the Society regularly keeps up as close a contact as possible.

Several provinces have made an inventory of all existing windmills in their area and the results have been laid down in a provincial windmill book, which contains a great many interesting data; in turn it may form a practical basis for further activities helping to preserve the Dutch windmills.

Furthermore the Society is making efforts to establish courses for training young specialists in the millwright's profession. This is done in cooperation with the Foundation for Technical Training in the Building Trade. Without such training the millwright's craft might well die out for lack of a sufficient number of skilled young workers.

Finally - and this is not the least important point - the Society employs a technical adviser who is a specialist in the field of windmill construction and all related matters.

This adviser tours the whole country and everywhere gives advice free of charge, attends to repairs and renewals, and draws up the relative plans and estimates, briefly: he forms the central point about which are grouped all the technical activities associated with efforts at preservation and restoration.

From time to time the Dutch Windmill Society publishes its Year Books, which form the documentation of what has meanwhile been accomplished; a simple periodical, Molens (Windmills), appearing four times a year, maintains the contact with members and gives more recent news.

It hardly needs saying that a large public can be reached via the newspaper press, and this is very important in a general sense and for special cases.

And when, frequently after considerable efforts, another mill has been reinstated in its full glory, the Society will as a rule be present when it is solemnly put into operation.

Thus the Dutch Windmill Society always stands up for the preservation of windmills in the Netherlands, and it tries to attain results by many different ways and means; it forms the centre for the contact with all sympathizers, interested parties, and other bodies having something to do with the aims and objects in question, both at home and abroad.

Two organizations, the Foundation De Overijsselse Molen and the Society De Zaansche Molen, are working in the same direction locally and champion the cause of windmills in Overijssel and in the Zaan district respectively. The last mentioned society also founded the handsome and interesting windmill museum at Koog aan de Zaan. The three societies cooperate cordially. The same thing can be said of the Rijnlandse Molenstichting and similar foundations.

They aim at promoting and ensuring the preservation of windmills in their special areas. The activities of such local societies and foundations is very important; it is only by means of a plurality of organizations which are pursuing the same objects and are doing so in close cooperation with the Dutch Windmill Society that in the long run it will be possible to accomplish in the Netherlands the results which lovers of windmills would like to achieve.

The seed sown for many years past by the Dutch Windmill Society has borne fruit; apart from the more direct activity at its own bureau (where more than 200 cases concerned with windmills are handled every year), this Society has created the climate in which the idea of the preservation of windmills was able to thrive.

The Society draws its strength from the ideal character of its aims. Started with about 250 members in its first year, this number is now (1962) about 1,500. It is striking as well as typical that hardly a year goes by but the Society receives a legacy from some one who therefore during his lifetime took part in and appreciated the Society's activities.

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