Exterior stairs of Blokweer Museum Mill replaced
The wooden exterior stairs of the Blokweer Museum Mill is being replaced. This is a necessary operation as the stringers of the stairs, the support beams running from top to bottom, have rotted away. The job is set to commence on Monday, and work on the millyard is expected to take about two weeks. Our guests will be able to get a close-up view of the work in progress.
“The stairway’s stringers are badly affected”, explains miller Jan-Willem de Winter of Kinderdijk World Heritage Foundation (SWEK). “All the spots where bolts penetrate the stair’s stringers have been exposed to water, which has leaked in and caused the wood to start rotting. ”All in all, the job on the millyard is scheduled to take about two weeks. Costs amount to about 26,000 euro. The actual part where the staircase is hoisted into place will take a day and a half. The new stairs were made by De Gelder Millwrights and Contractors in Sliedrecht. The staircase that is currently being replaced survived the fire that destroyed most of the mill’s structure back in 1997.
While the stairs are being replaced, the mill itself, which is responsible for making about one million (!) rounds every year, grinds to a standstill. The main reason for shutting it down is the fact that during maintenance, the mill’s cabin can’t be turned to face the wind, called ‘winding’ or ‘luffing’ in miller’s jargon. On top of that, the 400-year-old hollow post mill has become unbalanced. This is because the staircase is part of the mill’s tail pole construction, which offsets the weight of the sails and their mechanism at the front of the building. Obviously, the staircase also serves as a way for the miller to reach the top section of the mill, which is necessary for greasing its axles, among other maintenance. Inside the windmill, there are no stairs leading all the way up to the cabin, simply because there is no space available.
The Blokweer Museum Mill is the oldest windmill of Kinderdijk UNESCO World Heritage. Although the current construction was built in 1630, we know for a fact that a mill occupied this spot as far back as in 1542. This one is a bit more cumbersome to operate than the eighteen other mills (cap winders) in Kinderdijk, which were all built in the eighteenth century. These newer mills (relatively speaking) have interior stairways leading up to their cabins. From the eighteenth century onwards, fewer and fewer new hollow post mills were built. Nonetheless, the area around Kinderdijk still has several of these ancient designs standing upright, mostly because they were too costly to replace. If one of them happened to burn down, it got replaced by a newer cap winder design. You can find examples of these in Groot-Ammers and Streefkerk, among other towns in the region.