The Windmills of Mallorca

From the window of the plane we can see them by the dozen. We have no doubt

They were part of life’s necessity, used by farmers to grind grain and pump water. Today their presence is so inherent to the islands heritage, that in 2004, the Mallorcan government developed a project dedicated to their restoration and preservation.

Tiles of Fornalutx Of the three thousand windmills on the island, some dating back to the seventeenth century, six hundred of these are what we would class as “classic” windmills and are the most widespread. They are recognised by their wooden vanes, peaked “cap”, and were used for grinding grain.

The windmills we see as we land at Palma airport, which are most symbolic to Mallorca, are water-extraction mills. There are around two thousand five hundred of these, nearly all of them concentrated around the southern villages of Mallorca, Campos and Ses Salines or towards the middle of the island near Sa Pobla and Muro. They are distinguished by their “arrow” feature and were used to pump water into a “safareig” or water reservoir. The oldest and most common type of water-extraction windmill is the “Ramell”, which had wooden vanes that had to be opened manually, that’s why they had a flat topped tower. These are commonly seen in a poor state of repair, maybe just the tower remaining. The later models are those with metal vanes, designed for easier usage and longer life.

Nobody knows more about windmills than Aina Serrano. She is the coordinator of the Historical Industrial Heritage Programme run by the Department of the Environment. From a workshop at the Son Bonet Aerodrome in Pont d’Inca, she directs a small team of artisans, that have to date, restored around forty mills. Apart from the many windmills that her team works on, animal and water powered mills and olive oil mills also form part of this project. The Mallorcan Government is willing to lend the services of these skilled workers for free, and mill owners across the island are The Windmills of Mallorcaencouraged to participate in this project - the owner’s only cost is the materials. “We restore all the mills to be fully functional if the owner wishes, using exactly the same materials, whenever possible, that would have been used in their original construction, says Aina”. There are currently over 10.000 elements, incl. windmills, which are eligible for participation in this project. “Yes, restoring them all could take quite a while!” says Aina, “which is why our goal is to educate craftsmen all over the island so that more people may contribute.”

The “Sa Planeta” Windill in Andratx, owned by the local council, was one of the mills restored by Aina’s team.


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