Preetjes Molen is literally unique: it is the only remaining flax-scutching windmill in Europe. It is built in 1867 by Ivo Deprez - hence its name - and remains in operation until 1914. After a thorough restoration in the 1990s the windmill is listed as a monument in 1995. You can visit it every third Sunday of the month.
In the mid-19th century flax processing becomes the most important industry in the Lys Valley: thousands of workers ret, brake and scutch the flax to extract the textile fibres from the stalks.
Retting means soaking the fibres off the stalk’s woody core, braking refers to crushing this woody core, and scutching consists in removing these woody particles from the flax fibres.
Initially all these operations are done with very simple tools, but the scutching process is mechanised around 1850: a number of scutching boards are mounted on a rotating wheel that is driven by feet. It doesn’t take long before somebody comes up with the idea to power these so-called star mills with wind energy. Around 1870, there are already ten flax-scutching windmills in Heule alone.
Today Preetjes Molen is the last operational flax-scutching windmill in Europe.
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