The Windmill in Medieval Europe


Windmills would change the face of Northern Europe and put an end to animal power usage.

During the Medieval period, the windmill was one of the more redefined inventions to arrive in the Medieval world. But, in order to be most effective, the windmill had to be able to completely harness the energy of the wind in order to do its physical activities, much like sailing ships. The windmill was created to replace animal power in grinding grain. Like a watermill, the windmill could grind at least 1,000 bushels of grain per week and 6 bushels an hour based on the performance of the wind.

Around the 11th-12th centuries, in England, the windmill would come into existence, conceivably by returning Christian crusaders participating in the Crusade Wars in the Middle East. In Northern Europe, one of the earliest records of windmills were the ones in England recorded in 1185, courtesy of a rental note for a windmill in Weedly, Yorkshire. Also, in 1191, records show that a windmill in Bury St.Edmunds was constructed in defiance of the local abbot. The windmill was ultimately destroyed, as an end result.

Who Owned Windmills

Windmills were governed by the “miling soke” division of the manor’s charter. The windmill was the property of the lord of the manor, possessing the monopoly over the windmill. The lord was also responsible for the repairs, maintenance and amount of mills needed to meet the demands of the people.

The Church’s Involvement with Windmills

The church also had involvement with windmills. Take for instance, Pope Celestine III who claimed that air used by windmills belong to the church. He made the assertion that windmills must be built with the expressed consent of a papal tithe. He would be in charged with seeing that they operate properly. And the tenants living on the manor were indebted to grind their corn at the lord’s mill at a fixed rate of its toll. Furthermore, the lord’s corn was ground free and given precedence over the rest. If the mill fell into disrepair, this would be the only reason for the lord’s tenants to have their corn ground elsewhere.

Different Types of Windmills

There were a few types of windmills in Europe during the 12th century. One such windmill was the vertical windmill, which made its appearance during the last quarter of the 12th century, showcased in Eastern England, Northern France and Flanders (Dutch). The other was the post mill which was small and had a trestle that was poorly protected. So that means harsh weather conditions were more than enough to do damage to the post mill. With its fine and delicate structure, it was basic and among the earliest type of windmill in Europe. In order for the post mill to exist, it was prepared to rest along a vertical post. An extended lever projecting from the post mill’s rear allowed it to spin around.

Windmills Survive the Medieval Age

Windmills would shortly be used as a strategic defense device against enemy armies. They were huge in physical infrastructure, so it was possible that it would act as a fort and tower during the Age of Castles. In due course, as castles became a thing of the past, windmills would still see life. Thousands of windmills would show themselves along the European countryside. And even today, windmills are still used to harness the power of the wind creating power for infrastructures all over Europe.