EUROPEAN SOJOURN: There was an old family who lived in a mill (Still Day 2)


There was an old lady who lived in a shoe/ She had so many children she didn’t know what to do–

I didn’t know people actually live inside windmills, like inside lighthouses. There is a waiting list of families who want to move in. Jerry and I have conflicting memories as to whether they can live there free but in any case they must keep the mill working. This picture of a miller’s family of 14, probably from around the turn of the last century, was on a wall of the Kinderdijk windmill we went through.

I pointed out to the tour guide that the children were all bald and pale–iron deficiency or something, I started to suggest. But she interrupted me to point to one or two children who had hair and said the others had hair, too; it was just too light to see–

I didn’t mean to make a criticism, just an observation.





Inside the cramped space of the vertical home are more staircases, ladders, corners, tiny wedges of floor and secret passages than Anne Frank’s house. People from our bus were going upstairs here and downstairs there; we were meeting ourselves coming and going like a living illustration of a multi-dimensional Mobius strip. Gave me vertigo. 137But I climbed to the very top, where the throbbing of the giant screw and the blinding, colorfully changing lights assaulted my senses and sent me cautiously backing down again. 145






A powerfully whirling wooden shaft went all the way down through the middle of the lighthouse to a giant revolving gear.


It seemed a perilous place to raise children, like raising them in the engine room of a ship, with so many staircases to tumble down, not to mention the central shaft, and machinery to get mangled in. Outside, canals to fall into. . .

Every few seconds a sweeping blade guillotined the view:



Spare boots for other large families who may have outgrown their shoes or their windmills.


About Jessica Renshaw
This entry was posted in babies, Children, Europe, family, human interest anecdotes, interesting people, pictures, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to EUROPEAN SOJOURN: There was an old family who lived in a mill (Still Day 2)

  1. tedrey says:

    I’m fascinated by the older girl on the right; sharper detail, better clothes, complexion, hair! She makes the others seem like ghosts! Or is she photo-shopped in? As usual, your descriptions pull me into a real world I’ve never previously been to. Thanks again.



  2. Jerry thinks she might be a governess or nanny.

  3. Some of them look like they don’t have hair for the same reason some of them look like they don’t have eyes – in the earlier days of photography, the film that existed then was not good at picking up details of light-colored things. Stan Laurel (of Laurel and Hardy fame) almost didn’t have an acting career early on (starting in 1917 or so) because his eyes were blue and wouldn’t photograph well. So, I’m sure they were all normal-looking people. It was just the state of the photographic art at the time.

  4. Just had a good chat with my nephew Allan in Denmark. When I wrote that living in a windmill presented certain hazards to families I knew in the back of my mind that as the children grew older they probably made a game out of taking some of those risks.

    Sure enough, Allan mentioned reading an article in a Danish publication some time ago which described how Dutch children in millers’ families used to jump up and grab onto the “wings” of the windmill and try to hold on as the blades swept around. One girl lost her grip and was flung a long distance and was (gruesomely) killed. I don’t know if knowledge of that accident has spread to contemporary millers’ children and if so, whether that has discouraged such attempts or not.

  5. Enoch Stansfield (Nancy too) says:

    Most interesting. I enjoyed the pictures and didn’t know that families lived in windmills.

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