De Grote Macht (The Great Power) lives up to its name: it is one of the largest mills in Belgium. It dates from 1817 and serves as an oil mill and flour mill until the First World War. It is listed as a monument in 1996 and returns to operational status in 2005. You can visit the mill every second and fourth Saturday of the month from May to September.
De Grote Macht is one of the few remaining witnesses of an important industry: oil milling. In the 19th century there are dozens of companies in the region of Kortrijk and Lille which press oil from linseed, rapeseed and the like. This is a highly labour-intensive process with a lot of different steps.
The seed is initially ground into some kind of meal. This is subsequently heated and put in woollen bags. The bags are then placed in a case made of woven horse hair and laid in a container. In between comes a wedge which is rammed into the container by means of a wind-driven stamper. The resulting pressure presses the oil from the meal.
The heritage of the founder of De Grote Macht demonstrates that money could be made from milling oil: in 1847 he leaves a fortune of one million Belgian francs, which would convert into € 5.5 million Euro today.
The oil is sold to factories that turn it into soap, medications, paint or other products. In the second half of the 19th century the oil mills switch from wind power to steam power.
De Grote Macht is seriously damaged at the end of the First World War and is taken out of operation.
Copyright: All rights reserved