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Keerbergen Windmill: See it working!

I first paid a visit to the Keerbergen Windmill known as the Heimolen in the summer of 2015 when I was on a cycle tour of the region. From the outside it looked in fairly good shape, but there was an understandable air of neglect to it. Its door was padlocked. The ancient miller had passed away. The mill’s internal workings had been declared unsafe. In short, Keerbergen Windmill looked like it was going to end up as an attractive but disused and empty shell.

Keerbergen Windmill

But recently the mill was completely restored and it can be seen in all its glory every Saturday when the miller turns its sails. Roving Discovering Belgium photographer Herman Vandecauter visited it recently:

10th century: Flanders, land of the windmills

It was way back in the 10th century that we have the first records of windmills in the country we now know as Belgium. There may not have been as many as in neighbouring Netherlands, but even at the beginning of the 20th century there were around 2,500 mills just in Flanders. No wonder Flanders was known as “molendina terra” – the land of milling. Another surprising statistic is that there are currently approximately 380 working wind and water mills in Flanders. The Keerbergen Heimolen is one of the last four working windmills in the area around Leuven.

1330: First records in Keerbergen

The earliest record of a windmill in Keerbergen is 1330. A deed dated 8 February 1330 reveals that Duke John III of Brabant sold the whole village of Keerbergen ‘with all its accessories’ to his cousin Lodewijk van Berlaer, Lord of Helmond. This included ‘den Moelen’. We read of it again in the annals of 1473, when a certain Ywan van Cortenbach was named as owner of the mill.

1691: An unfortunate death

On 12 October 1691 the mill was again in the news. At four o’clock in the afternoon a large sack of barley was being hoisted into the mill under the admiring gaze of local farmer Franchoijs Kints. The rope broke, and the barley sack landed on the unfortunate farmer, who died from his injuries the following day.

1722: Moved to where the wind blows

Originally it stood in a different location, closer to the village of Tremelo on the Groote Heyde, but in 1722 it was moved to its current location on Molenstraat. The reason is simple: the windmill was where the wind wasn’t. Or at least, where the wind wasn’t strongest. It was thus moved to its present position to make the most of the prevalent winds.

1923: New owner

In 1923 Keerbergen Heimolen had a new owner: Desiré van Herck who bought it for 11,000 Belgian francs. In his time of ownership, lightning struck the Keerbergen Windmill not just once, but four times! And of course, the mill experienced two wars. In 1944 a V1 flying bomb hit it and tore all the slates off the roof and destroyed one of its blades. Despite this, the mill continued to stand tall!

Keerbergen Heimolen

Late 20th century: More changes

Not so the miller: in 1959 Desiré died at the age of 67, but his son Frans resumed responsibility for keeping the mill working. In 1975 it became the responsibility of the municipality of Keerbergen. In 2000, Frans van Herck died. Despite being semi-renovated in 2003, by 2015 the condition of the mill turned out to be too unsafe and it was shut down.

2017-2019: Fully restored

But thankfully the local council had other ideas. From 2017 to 2019 the mill was completely restored. All it needed was a miller. In 2021 one appeared by the name of Alexander Malomgré. Fascinated by windmills since he was a toddler, in 2018 he had become the youngest miller in Belgium. He took on the job of miller at the Heimolen, and now, every Saturday, when there is enough wind, Alexander turns the sails of this almost 700-year-old mill!

Keerbergen Windmill and its miller
Miller Alexander Malomgré

When is it open?

Keerbergen Heimolen is open for visits every Saturday between noon and 18:00 (spring and summer) and between noon and 16:00 (autumn and winter). As long as there is sufficient wind, miller Alexander Malomgré will release the brake and send the sails turning. He is always happy to enthusiastically explain the milling process.

Where is it?

The Keerbergen Heimolen can be found at the junction of Molenstraat and Achiel Cleynhenslaan in 3140 Keerbergen. Here is a beautiful drone shot of the windmill by Willy de Proost who is making a series of videos of Belgian windmills:

Technical information

The mill weighs approximately 35 tons and is called a post mill. The name is taken from the heavy, vertical stake around which the entire mill house revolves. This post rests on a cross of heavy oak beams and is kept straight by double struts. The whole rests on four masonry feet (diels). The body is rotated to enable the sails to face into the wind so that the sails turn. The tail construction and the ladder at the rear of the mill form a counterweight for the great weight of the stocks and sails, so that everything is balanced. The mill can store up to 10 tons of grain.

28 April 2024: Special event

A date to put in your agenda! On Sunday 28 April it’s Flemish Windmill Day. Almost all mills in Flanders will open their doors. Keerbergen Heimolen will be open from 10:00 to 18:00. Guided tours will be given continuously. You will also be able to sample delicious fresh pancakes baked with flour from the mill, a cup of coffee with a piece of apple cake made from the mill’s apple/cinnamon cake mix, or enjoy a regional beer or a glass of local fruit juice. All sales will go towards the upkeep of the mill.

Walking around Keerbergen

Why don’t you make a day of it in Keerbergen? There are some lovely walks along the river Dijle and through the fields, heaths and forests. Take a look at my personal recommendations for four walks around Keerbergen.

7 thoughts on “Keerbergen Windmill: See it working!”

    1. Indeed Becky, there is something so inherently satisfying seeing the wooden construction, the wind blowing the sails and moving the grindstones.

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