The Leu mill

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in Nunhem

The Leu mill and the former Leuhof lay solitarily and deep in the woods. In the past they were accessible from the Roggelseweg over two dirt roads. In the 1960s daytrips started to develop. This led to paving of the roads, improvement of the paths and taking several provisions to limit the nuisance and steer staying in the woods in the right direction.

At the time, Forest Administration and the Limburg Landscape Foundation managed to prevent the river from being locally canalised, like the majority from the source, and the barrage or water rights for the mill were preserved.

The Leu mill and the Leuhof were originally loaned by the counts of Horne. From 1701 to the French era they were in possession of the St. Elisabethsdal monastery. In 1796 the mill and the yard were confiscated by the French and sold as an estate. Around the turn of the 18th to the 19th century, the mill and the yard came into the possession of the Waegemans family in Nunhem. The possible first owner W. Waegemans was followed-up by a person of private means, Emmanuel Waegemans, married to Rosa Jacobs. Waegemans asked permission from the Provincial Government in 1828 to extend the grain and oil mill with a grinding mill to make grits out of barley. In a licence for renewing the sluice in 1850, the Leu mill was indicated as an oil, grain and grinding mill. Later the mill was simply referred to as a grain mill, probably for the sake of convenience.

The Waegemans family originally had its domicile at the castle or "Nunhem House”. The windmill, which was situated in between the villages of Buggenum and Nunhem, was property of the family. In a succession in 1851 the water- and windmill came into the possession of the three Waegemans children, namely Constant or Constant Emmanuel, local judge in Buggenum, in whose branch the mill was inherited; Carolina, wife of Henri Celestin Theron in Douai (France) and Theresia, who was married to Hubert Beltjens from Liège. They each inherited 1/3rd of the estate. Rosa Jacobs, the widow of Emmanuel Waegemans, who was a woman of private means in Nunhem, had usufruct until her death. The watermill was inherited by Maria Constance Petronella Hubertine Ghislaine Coenen from Weert in 1907 after the death of dowager L. Waegemans, born Van der Renne. She later moved to Buggenum and married Mr R.J.K.M. de Nerée de Babberich, district court registrar in Roermond.

At a public sale in 1935 the mill was assigned to Theodoor Pernot, contractor in Obbicht and Papenhoven. The mill and the farmstead, which had belonged together for centuries, were then separated. The following year his son Nicolaas Johannes Wilhelmus, physician in Geleen, and his son-in-law Hubert Joseph Marie Croughs, physician in Geleen-Lindenheuvel, became the joint owners of the watermill. During a division of the estate in 1952 only the latter became the owner. In 1956 Croughs sold the mill to the State of the Netherlands, after which the mill came under the management of the Forest Administration.

The watermill was always leased. In 1790 the leaseholder Hendrik Clephas died, after which the Leu mill with the yard was leased by his widow Maria Joseph Clephas-Janssen. Finally, her son Michel became the leaseholder. The leaseholders succeeded each other rapidly in the 19th century. The watermill, which still consists of a grain and oil mill, and is the only almost complete oil mill in Limburg (a wind-driven oil mill now also stands in Nederweert), is driven by a wooden waterwheel. This was also the case in the past. Around the turn of the century the wooden waterwheel had a diameter of 6.30 m and a width of 0.63 m. The grinder and waterworks, consisting of a grinding sluice and four discharge sluices, were made of wood at the time.

The Leu River by the mill consists of two branches; the mill lies on the right bank of the mill branch. The building was made of brick and has a tiled-hipped roof. According to the cramp-iron year, the building dates from 1773. The roof is decorated with a small bell tower. It is believed that the bell was sound in case of an emergency. There is a recess above the entrance, in which a statuette of Saint Ursula stood, believed to have dated from the 16th century. For many years the recess remained empty. A modern wooden statuette was placed here in 1961.

In the beginning of this century the wooden waterwheel needed renovation. The use of water turbines started gaining ground shortly after the turn of the century. The mill’s owner, widow L. Waegemans-Van der Renne, also had the waterwheel replaced by a turbine, before she got permission from the Provincial Government in 1911. The turbine of the Girard type and a new grinding seat consisting of cast-iron columns with two pairs of stones was provided by N.V. Machinefabriek and IJzergieterij P. Konings from Swalmen. A turbine chamber was built next to the façade, which connected to the mill’s ridge with a tiled single-pitch roof.

There were two pulleys on the vertical turbine axis that drove the pivots of the two pairs of millstones with belts. Using a claw clutch on the stone’s pivot, the pair of stones could be put out of action. Under the upper bearing of the turbine axle was a conic gear on a horizontal axis. This axis drove a horizontal axis on the second loft using a belt, with which, among others, the sacks were hoisted to the stone floor.

In the 1920s and 1930s the grinding business had seriously reduced. During both world wars the grinding revived, but the mill was brought to a standstill shortly afterwards. A business adaptation to newer grinding techniques, such as installing a hammer mill for grinding compound feed, didn’t take place.

In 1960 and 1961 the Forest Administration had the Adriaens Bros. from Weert equip the mill with a waterwheel, because of which different driving gear also had to be placed. The oil striking mechanism also needed to be repaired. The turbine with the turbine chamber and grinding seat under the stone loft were removed.

The new wooden waterwheel was affixed onto a steel axis that drove the iron driving gear. This driving gear was also in a seat, formed by cast-iron columns that are situated under the stone loft.

The fine driving gear consists of a conic axle wheel, which drives the main piece with a cogwheel. The track wheel and the pinions form the drive of the two stone pivots. Every pinion can, as is customary, slide out of the engagement of the track wheel over the stone pivot in order to put the pair of stones out of action. The grinding seat and driving gear originated from the watermill of Damoiseaux in Sittard, which was demolished due to urban renewal.

The drive of the oil mill takes place from the main piece with an intermediate shaft and a conic wheel transmission. A wooden pinion, mounted on the other side of the intermediate shaft drives the edge runner mill on the old axle. This latter cogwheel also meshes on a crown wheel of the camshaft, with which the rammers are lifted out of the chief beam of threshold.

The waterwheel has a diameter of 5.60 m and a width of 1 m. An awning was affixed above the waterwheel. Its function isn’t known.

In 1961 the renovation and restoration were completed and festively opened on 10 June of the same year by Mr F. Houben, governor of the province of Limburg. At first, feed grain grinding was only done for demonstrative purposes. Currently, the mill serves as a visitor centre. Information is provided about Leudal, especially about the cultural and historic aspects. The mill is open daily for interested parties. For opening hours, go to www.leumolen.nl.

In the mid-1960s plans were developed to generate electricity using waterpower. The former Foundation for Generating Electricity for Wind- and Watermills acted as advisor. The design and execution of the drive was provided by N.V. Machinefabriek Van Aarsen in Panheel. The generator of the Dietz brand, provided with a built-on conic wheel compartment, had a capacity of 5 kW.

The drive consisted of a vertical intermediate shaft with a pinion at the top that was driven by the track wheel. There was a gear under the pinion. There was a V-belt drive at the base of the intermediate shaft to the conic wheel compartment. The total transmission had to provide the desired generator rotational speed of 1550 revolutions per minute.

The results remained under expectations. This was mainly due to the simple classic design of the wooden waterwheel. The experiments were therefore discontinued early. Now the generator is set up in the watermill of Eibergen.

© P.W.E.A. van Bussel “De Molens van Limburg”. Publication rights obtained from the author’s son.

Opening times: Sunday to Thursday from 13:00 bis 17:00 clock (July and August). On the first and third Saturday of the month from 10:00 bis 14:00 clock. On Sundays and public holidays from 13:00 bis 17:00 clock (from Pentecost until 1 July).

Adress: Leumolen 3, 6083 BL Nunhem, Phone: (+31) (0)495-641417