The Friedesse mill

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in Neer

The Friedesse mill with the monumental miller’s house in the Bergerstraat was one of the nicest spots of Neer. Both are dated from around 1700; the wall clamps on the fa- cade indicate the year 1717. The mill house is made of brick and has a jerkinhead tile roof with, in the front face of the roof or hipped roof, the awning of the hoist to lift the sacks to the attic. It was originally a grain and oil mill, which was driven by an undershot waterwheel until 1958. Originally, the mill had two waterwheels that lay behind each other slant- ing, each with its own ark. In the mid-19th century the front wheel, which hung alongside the façade and drove the grain mill, had a diameter of 5.66 m and a width of 0.9 m. The dimensions of the second wheel, whose axis lay directly behind the front wheel, were respectively 5.32 m and 0.66 m.

In the first half of the 19th century the watermill with appurtenances was the property of Sibert Geenen, who was a miller here. In 1852, after his death, his widow Margaretha Geenen-Tobben became the owner, followed in 1875 by Elisabeth Geenen, wife of Peter Theelen, who was the miller at the time. Theelen had the oil mill’s waterwheel removed and the driving gear of the grain and oil mill connected.

During the division of the estate in 1883, miller Sibert Theelen got the mill; Margaretha Theelen, the wife of Jacob Vennekens, was the co-owner. In 1889 Theelen bough the Winkel mill, a watermill that was situated behind the Friedesse mill on the Neer river. The waterwheel of the Friedesser mill was renovated in 1891. The new wheel had a diameter of 5.78 m and a width of 0.80 m. In 1909 Theelen had the wooden sluice truss with six wooden dis- charge sluices, which were hoisted up with chains through wooden hoisting gear, replaced by an iron truss. The wooden bolts were then each operated individually by iron hoisting gear using a hand rack. Around the same time or shortly afterwards, the mill was provided with an iron waterwheel with a diameter of 5.70 m, width 0.9 m, and iron driving gear. The stone bed, which is part of the loft, is supported by a brick column base. The driving gear consists of a conic axis wheel to drive the steel bearing allowing rotation about a vertical axis with the crown wheel, which operates on the pinions of the two stone pivots. The stone pivots are supported by rail frames positioned on the brick column bases. This construction is sporadically found in mills with this type of driving gear. The stone light of each couple of stones with the lead screw is supported by a section-iron frame. Before the new grinding setup was installed, the oil mill was broken out, where the heavy stones of the edge runner mill were dug into the mill’s floor. The edge stones had a diameter of 1.80 m and a thickness of 26 cm.

In the second decade of this century, the Theelen Leonard Willem family worked at the mill; Johannes Hubertus was the town clerk of Neer. The last miller in this family was Theodoor Theelen. He had a motorised flour mill and fodder business in Neer. Due to emigration he sold the business around 1950.

After the division of the estate in 1920 Jos or Antonius Joseph Vennekens ended up with the Friedesse mill. In 1948 he sold the mill with house and other appurtenances to Alfons van Stekelenburg from Mierlo (North Brabant), married to Antonia Johanna van Erp.

A.J. van Stekelenburg came from a well-known line of millers in East Brabant. His father Godefridus bough the post mill of Zeelst near Eindhoven in 1888 and had it moved to Mierlo-Hout. Alfons worked in this mill until 1937. When he bought the Friedesse mil, the pump was shabby and the mill was in a poorer condition. After some serious repairs the mill and the house got their former lustre back.

Baking rye and grain for fodder was ground on a couple of “17-er” artificial stones; buckwheat and wheat on a couple of “17-er” blue German stones.

The flour was sieved with a hexagonal bolter; a simple wooden seed cleaner was used to clean the grain. Both machines, respectively standing on ground level and the loft, are driven by a transmission axle to the driving gear. A wooden pulley is mounted to the axis wheel to drive the transmission axle.
In the early fifties Van Stekelenburg bought an electric hammer mill and a mixing pan.
After having been a miller in Neer for 11 years, he withdrew for health reasons and moved to Mierlo- Hout, where he died shortly afterwards. The mill was leased out to his brother-in-law Lambert van Erp.

The Friedesse mill was then no longer a watermill; Van Stekelenburg had .sold the barrage right to the Middle Limburg district water board in 1958.

The deepening of the Neer River by the Friedesse mill aroused emotional reactions in 1962. The inhabitants of Neer were very sympathetic towards the old river and the mill in particu- lar. There were newspaper reports about this and a large sign was placed by the mill with a text that simply and clearly expressed the sentiments.

No arguments, however, stood in the way of the method of execution. A technical solution acceptable to both parties turned out to be impossible. A new barrage with tumbling bay was not built near the mill but a short distance behind it. What was eventually achieved, however, is that the water- wheel didn’t hang on dry land but in a type of gulf of the Neer River, which was, however, no more than a small plaster on a huge cut.

A decade later the house and the mill were put on the list of protected monuments. The inseparable water works were no longer part of it. In 1987 the mill with house was sold to Bodo Kochel from Berlin. The house is in restoration and will be partly renovated. The mill and the waterwheel are in a poor condition.

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

Opening times: Sundays from 13:00 bis 17:00 clock (May to September)

Adress: entrance Eiland 1, 6086 NA Neer, Phone: (+31) (0)475-592702