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Newsletter 143 Winter 2023  © Hampshire Mills Group



Two French Windmills



Ruth Andrews
Photos by Keith and Ruth Andrews

On our long car journey back to Le Havre we were confronted by two very prominent windmills right alongside the road. 


The first one, Moulin des Aigremonts, at Bléré near Amboise was a magnificent moulin cavier with its sails partially extended.  Although it was about 4:30pm it was obviously still open and we enjoyed an enthusiastic tour, which went on for at least 1½ hours and finished long after the official 4pm closing time;  indeed, it had started after that closing time!



So here are some details.  This type of mill is called a moulin cavier because it has a stone-built cellar which was also used for wine making.  On top of this an elegant stone cone houses the milling machinery and centre post, whilst the wooden buck perched above it contains the windshaft and gears. 

This is only accessible from a wooden ladder on the cellar roof which also acts as a tailpole (see below left).  The drive to the single pair of stones is a square metal shaft that is mostly enclosed in the hollow wooden post that supports the buck (see below right).


Our guide, with French burr stone


The mill is fitted with distinctive Berthon sails which consist of parallel slats that can be fanned out to catch the wind. 

The original mill was built in 1848 but became derelict.  It was acquired by the town of Bléré in 2003 and was extensively restored.  This mill has 4 vaulted cellars at right angles which were completely reconstructed and are now used to house an extensive collection of ancillary machinery.  I was particularly pleased to see several types of dressers, and a cylindrical seed separator, which looked rather like the one at Longbridge mill, but was much more complete.  The mill has been open to the public since June 2009 and is regularly used and immaculately presented.


One of the dressers

Cylindrical seed separator


The square metal shaft driving the millstone, and geared drive to ancillary machinery

We were almost relieved to find that the second mill, Moulin Pelard at Bois de Feugères south of Chartres right next to the N10 was closed!  In total contrast to the first one this mill was an open trestle post mill built in 1796.  The wooden buck looked enormous, but I gather that it was fairly typical for this region of France. 

The buck is faced with wooden shingles, and vertical and horizontal weather-boarding on the sides and back.  The buck is 11m x 6m x 4m.  The sails are metal with a span of 17.5m, and the canvas has an area of 48m2 when fully unfurled.

The mill was owned by 4 generations of the Pelard family and bequeathed to the commune of Bouville on the death of the last miller, Léopold Pelard, in 1941. 

Its restoration began in 1976, although sadly it was destroyed in a storm in 1977.  The sails were not finally replaced until 1990. 

The mill is regularly open to the public.

This mill rotates through 360o on top of a fixed post, the gros cylindre, which is supported by 4 crosstrees aligned to the cardinal points of the compass, which in turn rest on 8 large stones.  The crosstrees and quarter bars are protected from the weather with shingles and weather-boarding.




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