The Malta Independent 17 November 2018, Saturday

Windmills In Malta

Malta Independent Sunday, 30 April 2006, 00:00 Last update: about 5 years ago

From Mr W. Jellema

My wife and I live in Apeldoorn, Holland, and we will be visiting Malta for the sixth time next month. I am collecting material about Maltese windmills as I would like to write a book about them and I don’t know enough about them to make a good book. Therefore, my son and I have set up a website

The website is already on the net, but we will set up a new one, which I hope will be ready by the end of May. The text of the introduction is the following.

There used to be a lot of windmills in Malta and Gozo. At least 64 were stone windmills and almost all were grain mills. There were about 54 in Malta and 12 in Gozo. Only three of these mills still have sails. Malta had a windmill as early as 1530, and by 1565 two. Those were postmills.

Nearly all the windmills were built by the Knights of Saint John, most of which were constructed between 1663 and 1773. Grand Master Lascaris (1636 –1657) built four in Malta and one in Gozo.

Grand Master Nicolas Cottoner (1663 – 1680) and his brother Rafael (1660 – 1663) built mills in Bormla, Zebbug, Floriana (two), Naxxar and Zurrieq and later they in Lija, Zejtun, Gudja and another one in Zebbug.

Grand Master Antonio Manoel de Vilhena (1722 – 1736) built five mills namely in Rabat, Gharghur, Zurrieq, Birkirkara, and one between Ghaxaq and Zejtun.

In about 1726, three mills were built in Gozo and one in Naxxar.

At that time there were 16 windmills in operation. In 1826 there were 26 in Malta and five in Gozo.

The mill in Zejtun was still in operation in 1939.

An interesting fact is that every windmill was within sight of its neighbour from the slots in the tower, so that the miller could see whether the others were working or not. This might have made windmills a part of the communication and defence systems. Most of the mills were already relics in 1900 after steam mills were invented. This type of mill developed progressively round Grand Harbour.

Almost all the windmills have the same building plan. The tower (tromba) is surrounded by a stone quadrangular building. The tower is three metres in diameter and 15 metres high.

The main entrance gave access to a hall. On both sides of the hall were two rooms, one for the reception of grain and the other for the storage of flour.

Behind the hall was the entrance to the tower and about 50 circular steps in the tower. The room behind the hall and the rooms on the first floor were used by the miller and his family. The mechanism inside was of a normal type and was located at the top of the tower. Mostly it operated one pair of grinding stones.

I have photos of all Maltese windmills or what is left of them. Two photos are added (Lija and Nadur). We will be in Malta from 17 May to 7 June

Wibo Jellema


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