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The Dutch windmill and its types

Updated on October 29, 2013
The Dutch windmill was invented in the beginning of the 16th century in the Netherlands. The windmill is locally called cap windmill. It has a rotating cap or hood. The Dutch engineer and windmill designer, Jan Adriaanszoon Leeghwater, is known as the inventor of the swivel cap.

Rotated into the wind

The Dutch windmill is a very technical mill. Usually this type is an octagonal building. Only the cap is rotatable. The lower part of this mill is extremely stable. The body sometimes is so massive that the miller can live in the mill. The lower part is mostly built of stone or created of wooden beams. The cap of the Dutch windmill is rotated by a special construction and it has rectangular, long wings. The wings can be turned into the wind and then the mill can do its work. Windmills are used for various purposes. For example it is used to grind grain, to pump water, to saw wood or to drain a polder. The best known application is the grinding of corn.


Various types

Dutch tower mill with gallery

The Dutch tower mill is much larger than many other mills. It is not possible, whilst standing on the ground, to operate the wings. Therefore there is a kind of gallery around the mill. Thus, the wings can be operated.

Dutch mountain or wall mill

Another way to reach a greater height, was to place the mill on an elevated wall. This type is known as Dutch mountain or wall mill. Sometimes a passage was built, where one could go through the mill base with a special truck. This special type is known as Dutch transit mill.


Dutch Grondzeiler “ground sailer”

This mill, built on the ground and without a gallery, is known as Dutch “ground sailer”. Because the wings are almost down to the ground such mills are found in areas where the wind blows freely.

Areas known for their windmills


There are 8 windmills in Amsterdam. The most famous mills are “Molen van Sloten", which was used to drain the polder, the "De Otter", used to saw wood and the "de Gooyer".


The 19 windmills of “Kinderdijk” were once used to pump the water from the polder into the river. These mills are included in the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage.

Kinderdijk | Source


Only 5 copies, from originally 20, have been preserved. But these 5 are the highest in the world. Highest mills of this type are the mills "De Nolet" with 43 m cap height and "De Noord" with a cap height of 33.5 m. A wind turbine located nearby was designed in such a way that it resembles the original windmills. The turbine was built in 2006.

Zaanse Schans

The “Zaanse Schans” offers a collection of historical windmills and buildings. Visitors get an impression what Holland looked like in previous years. The “Zaanse Schans” is one of the most popular tourist attractions of de province “Noord Holland”.



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