Then and now: Mostert’s Mill

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Mostert’s Mill has become an icon of the Southern Suburbs. If you drive along the M3, you’ll see the small green-and-white windmill near the side of the road. Mostert’s Mill was built in 1796 and is the oldest surviving windmill in South Africa - and, fascinatingly, it still works.

In fact, Mostert’s Mill is the only working windmill in sub-Saharan Africa. For most of the year, the ‘blades’ of the mill are uncovered, showing just the wooden cross-frame. However, a few times a year, fabric sails are attached to the blades and they are turned into the wind. As the sails turn, gears and cogs turn a pair of millstones, bringing the mill to life to grind wheat.

There were 11 other windmills built in Cape Town from the early 1700s, but Mostert’s Mill is the only surviving one. Quick fact: the name Oude Molen comes from a large mill (literally “Old Mill”) that was built in 1718 near the Black River in Pinelands. Although Oude Molen was demolished, its name survives as the small suburb Oude Molen Village upon the same ground that the mill was first built.

Mostert’s Mill design and history

Mostert’s Mill is a three-storey truncated-cone tower-mill with a revolving thatched roof that allows the blades to be turned to face the wind. Next to the mill stands a threshing-floor and a small thatched house which was probably occupied by the miller as this was a private windmill.

The mill was built in 1796 by Gysbert van Reenen who inherited the farm on which it stood from his father in 1794. Van Reenen was 33 when he built the mill and he sold the farm to his son-in-law, Sybrand Jacobus Mostert, in 1823. The mill became known as Mostert’s Mill and it remained in the hands of the Mostert family until 1889.

The two restorations of Mostert’s Mill

In the 1900s, the mill became derelict and was neglected for decades. In 1935, the South African Department of Public Works decided to restore Mostert’s Mill to its former glory. A Dutch millwrighting company, Dunning-Bremer, was asked to repair and restore the machinery. During World War II, the mill fell into disuse once again and was allowed to deteriorate.

The mill and the adjoining threshing-floor were declared a National Monument and a Provincial Heritage Site in 1940. It was not until the second restoration in 1995 that Mostert’s Mill started operating again. Once again, Dunning-Bremer undertook the second restoration along with the Department of Public Works.

The mill is scheduled to run on Saturday, 22 September; Saturday, 20 October; Saturday, 17 November and Saturday, 15 December 2018. These dates are provisional and dependant on the weather.

For more information on opening times and operating days, email Special access to view the mill can be arranged at R250 for a group of people.


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Author: Seeff

Submitted 07 Sep 18 / Views 237