It seems like a privilege: living at work. But if wind and rain determine your agenda and you are employed by the polder 24/7, it quickly becomes less attractive. If the polder water was not yet 'up to standard' and the wind was favourable, the miller worked quietly for a few days in a row. Whoever thinks he was done after that is mistaken. Because the miller's wages amounted to a maximum of 45 euros on an annual basis, the miller hired himself out as a laborer whenever possible. The house itself also left a lot to be desired. Because no matter how beautiful such a mill may seem, poor insulation, drafts and moisture did not improve living comfort. In the absence of a kitchen, cooking was done over an open fire or on a pot stove. Rising smoke and soot made the first floor uninhabitable. Two box beds served as sleeping places for the whole family. Rainwater served as drinking water, the toilet was above the ditch and the washing place was along the waterfront… Life in and around the mill was hard.
Initially, the miller's family only occupied half of the ground floor. Until the early 19th century, the mills were still equipped with a paddle wheel, water shaft and water wheel. Only when these were replaced by a mortar, the family could use the entire ground floor and the living comfort became slightly more spacious.
Good and bad mills
The miller had some privileges: his lodging was free and the polder board gave him peat, candles and petroleum. He was also allowed to use a piece of land as a vegetable garden or to graze some livestock. Mills with a lot of ground were known as good mills, mills with little ground were bad mills. If a vacancy arose, promotion from a bad to a good mill was possible.
Due to poor hygiene and public health, the miller's families were not very large in the past. Many children died at a young age and people grew old early because of the hard work. At the time, it was very common to have a grandparent in the family. And when the miller or his wife died, it was customary to hire a servant or maid, who eventually married.
Life in and around the mill was hard. The location was often remote and limited accessibility. The miller's profession was not highly regarded and the miller fell under the strict regime of the local polder administration. Misconduct was fined, after repetition followed dismissal. Due to the lack of shielding of the rotating mill parts, accidents regularly took place. Fortunately, working with the seasons compensated a lot – at least the miller's work was not monotonous.