Gironde windmills

Cultural heritage . Heritage

When you carefully examine the maps of Belleyme and Cassini, published in the 1809th century and concerning the department, you can spot a large number of windmills. The inventory drawn up under Napoleon I (1801) identifies precisely XNUMX mills, a figure which reflects the importance of this built heritage, which punctuated the daily life of the rural populations of Gironde. It is also to say the considerable part of the surfaces devoted to the culture of cereals; these (wheat, wheat, barley, rye), far ahead of the vines, once occupied the vast majority of the land. Bread was then of paramount importance in the daily diet.

What remains of these mills?

Most have lost their roof, their wings and their mechanism. Alone, a cylindrical tower still standing recalls the existence of a windmill. In recent years, several windmills have been restored, found their wings and make flour...
This is the work of municipal associations (Cussol mill in Verdelais, Grand Puy mill in Lansac, Haut Benauge mill in Gornac), or private owners (Calon mill in Mountain). A windmill has been built from scratch, as before; this is the case of mill of the Grandes Vignes in Perissac.

A few words about windmills

Windmills, which are almost exclusively grain mills, are present in France, particularly on the Atlantic coast, the Channel, the Paris Basin, but also in the south, on the Guyenne-Lauragais-Provence axis and of course in Gironde.
Windmills are very neat buildings. Their slender cylindrical shaft (from 6 to 8 m in height) is built in stone of good limestone or rubble simply covered with a plaster. Two opposite entrance doors, often oriented east-west, allow access to the mill, regardless of the position of the wings. The frames of the doors and windows are made of cut stone and on certain door lintels is mentioned the date of construction of the mill or the name of its owner. On the ground floor is sometimes the bolting and bagging, and sometimes a fireplace or the miller's bed under the stone staircase set in the masonry of the tower. This is followed by a first intermediate floor where there are some pieces of machinery (speed regulator with balls, pulleys, etc.) and a second floor where the motor part and the grinding mechanism are located. The staircase allows the miller to climb the bags of grain up to the millstone chamber.
The tower carries the capital, that is to say the turning assembly, the conical roof covered with chestnut shingles and the motor shaft. The latter, an essential device for catching the wind, carrying the wings and the large spinning wheel, introduces the rotational movement inside the mill, necessary to operate the grinding wheels. To function, the wings with bars and cotrets, fixed at the end of the motor shaft, are covered with fabric. In addition, they are inclined to obtain better wind resistance. From the skylight located on the rear part of the conical roof comes out a large oak pole attached to the frame which goes down to the ground: it is the drawbar which is used to turn the roof, to put the wings in the wind, in its direction. and in front of him.
The mills are sometimes placed on an artificial clod which constitutes a terrace which allows access to the wings, inside which is a cellar serving as a storage place for grain and flour.

An authentic windmill: the Vensac mill

If your walk takes you to the Médoc, stop at Vensac mill !
This late 2th century mill, located 1858 km away, was dismantled stone by stone in 1878 to be rebuilt in its current location. The miller took advantage of the reconstruction to install new mechanisms: buckets, endless screws, sieves... From 1913 to 1858, the mill was held by several successive owners and was deprived of certain elements put in place in 1939. He fell asleep in 1982 , due to the mobilization of its miller, then came back to life in 1983-1985, restored by the Piquemal family with its original equipment: bucket belt, gears, worm, bolt, auxiliary engine. The frame, the spinning wheel, the millstones are original. The bolter is located in a small building next to the mill. The mill, which produces wheat and buckwheat flour, was awarded in XNUMX in the "masterpieces in danger" competition for its restoration.

The mill tower is surmounted by a conical roof covered with tarred pine planks to ensure watertightness.

How does a windmill work?

  • the sucker points the wings against the wind
  • using the capstan, he exerts traction on the tail (or wurm) and causes the rotation of the roof on an oak rail located at the top of the tower
  • The wings are covered (50 m2 of canvas)
  • With the brake released, the wings begin to rotate, transmitting the movement to the interior elements.
  • On the ground floor, a bucket belt picks up the grain and conveys it to the two large millstones located six meters above.
  • On the upper floor, the crushed grain or milling is collected around the millstones in a wooden chest before flowing to the flour mill, located on the ground floor; There, the grind is transported by an endless screw to the sieve, where the bark of the grain is separated from the flour by a 4m long sieve fitted with a very fine cloth.

Mr. Piquemal, an authentic miller, operates the mill of his ancestors, for the happiness of all. During your visit, he will tell you all the secrets of this formidable machine, which is the subject of his attentive care! A picnic area is also available.

Mr. and Mrs. Piquemal- 19 Route du Moulin de Vensac- 33590 Vensac
05 56 09 45 00 -