Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout: The Most Iconic Landmark of The Netherlands

Mill Network at Kinderdijk-Elshout was declared World Heritage Site in 1997

The contribution of the Dutch people to water drainage techniques is enormous, as attested by the extraordinary installations in the Kinderdijk-Elshout region where all the typical elements of this technology can be found: dikes, ponds, pumping stations, administrative documents, as well as a set of impeccably preserved mills.

The Kinderdijk-Elshout network of mills is located in the northwest corner of the Alblasserwaard, bounded by the Lek, Merwerde, and Noord rivers. These mills drained the inner districts of Overwaard and Nederwaard until their closure in 1950. The 19 mills that make up this group are in good working order. In addition to these wooden and brick mills, the locks, the houses of the Assembly of the Water and Polders Administration (Wateringue) and the pumping stations have been declared World Heritage Sites.

Due to technical requirements, the Elshout locks have been reduced from four to two, which were rebuilt in the mid-1980s. The Houses of Assembly of the Water Administration and of the Polders in Overwaard and Nederwaard have been preserved in perfect condition. The former was built in 1581 and from 1595 was occupied by the keeper of the Elshout lock.

After being used for various functions it became the seat of this administration in 1648. In the 16th century, a vaulted stone porch was added, decorated with the coats of arms of the president and members of the administration. In 1918, when the Overwaard dike was lengthened, it was set back 3 m and a new façade was built. The Nederwaard Assembly House is a simple two-story rectangular building with a four-pitched roof built in the 18th century.

The Wisbour pumping station was erected in 1868 and operated by steam with four large water wheels, but in 1924 it was adapted for use with electricity. The Van Haaften pumping station, built on the Nederwaard, also dates from 1868. In 1927 it was converted to run on diesel fuel and in 1921 and 1922 it was partially demolished to build the J. V. Smit pumping station. 

But the most unique element of this landscape are the windmills, which were used to pump water from the polders. Two centuries ago, up to 150 windmills were counted in the region, which decreased to 78 in 1870 to reach the 28 that remain today, of which 16 belong to the Kinderdijk region. 

The eight mills of Nederwaard were all built in 1738. Built of brick, only the upper part of the windmill turns in the wind. Their long blades, 28 m in diameter, are only 30 cm off the ground. Inside, in addition to a series of rooms, there is an iron wheel of 6.30 m in diameter that is responsible for moving all the gears.

The eight mills of the Overwaard date from 1740, although one of them, after suffering a fire, was rebuilt in 1980. Unlike the previous ones, they are octagonal in plan and are built in wood, with their lower structures made of brick. The inner wheel is 6.70 m long and the blades are also 28 m in diameter. 

In addition, there are two other mills in the Nieuw-Lekkerland polder, which are of the same type as those in Overwaard, and the Blokker mill in the Alblasserdam polder, which is of the oldest known type of mill. It is known that there was already another mill on this site which was burned down by Spanish soldiers in the year 1575. Its lower part is pyramidal and is made of wood, as is the upper part. The wheel that controls the movement of the blades is located on the outside of the mill. 

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