The Armenmolen

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in Neeritter

Before the French era, Neeritter was a free village and Armenmolen was a lord’s mill for its inhabitants. The mill derives its name, “armenmolen” means “poor man’s mill”, from the fact that it was donated to the Poor Relief Committee of Neeritter. The watermill of Neeritter was first mentioned in a polyptych (= list of church property) from 1280. In these first years the mill was also called the “Neer mill” or “Gasthuys mill”. Old documents of the aldermen of Neeritter reveal that “300 Brabant guilders” were borrowed from the Poor Relief Committee in 1535. This money was repaid around 1580 and the margin of the document in question reveals that the money is “geemployert totten opbouw van den Ermen meulen”. Façade wall-ties on the mill in Molenstraat 12 indicate the date of construction: 1686. A different document of the aldermen of Neeritter mentions in 1684 that “300 Brabant guilders” were again borrowed from the Poor Relief Committee. The margin mentions that the money was paid back in 1687 and was used to build the Armenmolen. The mill was leased by the Poor Relief Committee of Neeritter for almost three centuries. Many of these old leases can be found in the Roermond city archives.

The mill was originally square (as if evident from a “Carte figurative” of 1714). The first cadastral map of 1843 proves that a large part was added. When is not known. Half of the old square part was used as living space, the grinder stood in the other half.

Electricity was installed in Neeritter in 1929. A special overhead line was led to the miller and the mill was given an electric motor that drove at least one set of grinding stones.

The Coolen family became the leaseholder in 1886. The last miller was Pierke Coolen. Around 1950 no more money was to be earned with the mill, as the Poor Relief Committee sold the water rights in 1950. When the son of the last miller was offered a good job at the local authority (town treasurer) the family immediately moved to a new house and terminated the lease. The Civil Poor Relief Committee was discontinued in 1952, making the municipality of Hunsel the owner. It was clear that no more leaseholders/millers could be found. This is why the mill was adapted in 1952 and furnished as a local welfare centre, leased to the Green Cross, Neeritter department. The grinder was removed and the municipality, which had taken over the tasks of the Poor Relief Committee, took all the wood to make oak furniture. The space with the old toilet, pigsty and cowshed became a kitchen and two modern toilets and shower were also added. The space that used to be the residential part and the milling installation was furnished with a large number of changing tables, fenced off with partitions. Apart from its function as a welfare centre, the mill was also used as “social housing”; several families requiring temporary accommodation lived in the mill for some time. The Green Cross only had surgery twice a week in those days. This could be easily combined with the occupation. The municipality sold the building to the Green Cross in 1961.

The mill and the miller’s house used to form one unit. In the end elevation upstream, there used to be a narrow entrance, of which the bluestone threshold for wheelbarrows, with which the grain was supplied, was deeply worn away. A narrow corridor went from this door to the grinding setup and the living room.

Around 1970 a part was added to this façade that is connected to the mill with a roof pitch, where the paediatrician had his workroom. An annex was also built onto the other side of the mill, intended to put the prams of mothers who took their children to the health centre.

In 1972 this institute found different accommodation and sold the building to E.G.J.M. Beunen, who furnished the building as a house.

In its time, the mill had two pairs of “17-er” grinding stones and wooden movement that lay under the stone bed. A short main piece with a track wheel provided the drive of the pinions on the stone spindle. The cradle, in which the rods had been positioned under a slanted corner, was installed against the underside of the track wheel. The cradle worked together with an axis wheel whose cogs had been put into the slanted side of the rim. In order to put the pair of stones out of action several rods of the pinion were removed from the stone pivot in question.

In the past the mill had a wooden undershot waterwheel. In the mid-19th century its diameter was 5.42 m and its width 0.49 m. Later the waterwheel was made smaller: the diameter was 4.78 m and the width 0.42 m. In the early 1880s the waterworks and the waterwheel were in a poor condition.

It’s mainly the influential family (Baron) Michiels van Kessenich who had objections for over a century against the miller increasing the water level in the Itter river (by elevating his discharge sluice doors) and against improvement of the waterworks. In 1883 this dispute reached its peak, but the Council of State eventually decided that the miller was allowed to maintain the common level. In 1907 an iron waterwheel was installed. It had a diameter 4.60 m and a width of 0.75 m. The current waterwheel dates from 1935. The wooden axle wasn’t replaced by a metal one until after WWII. In 1975 the course of the Itter River was canalised by the mill. The little wall the waterwheel rests on was also strengthened and widened. The wheel was restored in 1996 and 2008.

It’s still a picturesque watermill in a painterly setting with the old church in the background.
© P.W.E.A. van Bussel “De Molens van Limburg”. Publication rights obtained from the author’s son.

Opening times: National Mill Day, Heritage Day (second weekend in September) and Limburger Mill Day (first Sunday in October)

Adress: Molenstraat 12, 6015 AC Neeritter, Phone: (+31) (0)6-29102200