Mostert's Mill

Mostert's Mill
Mostert's Mill
Mostert's Mill, February 2008
Mill name Mostert's Mill
Mill location 33°57′08″S 18°27′58″E / 33.95222°S 18.46611°E / -33.95222; 18.46611Coordinates: 33°57′08″S 18°27′58″E / 33.95222°S 18.46611°E / -33.95222; 18.46611
Operator(s) Friends of Mostert's Mill
Year built c1796
Purpose Corn mill
Type Tower mill
Storeys Three
Number of sails Four
Type of sails Common sails
Windshaft Wood, with cast iron poll end
Winding Tailpole

Mostert's Mill is a historic windmill in Mowbray, Cape Town, South Africa. It was built in 1796 and is the oldest surviving, and only complete, windmill in South Africa.



The mill was built around 1796 as a private mill on the farm 'Welgelegen', owned by Gysbert van Renen, and was named after his son-in-law, Sybrand Mostert, after Van Renen's death.[1] It was the first privately owned mill, as prior to the British occupation of the Cape in the Battle of Muizenberg in 1795, only mills controlled by the Dutch East India Company were allowed. Mostert's Mill had ceased working by 1873,[2] but was owned by the Mostert family until 1889, when it was sold to a Mr Wilks, who sold it in 1891 to Cecil Rhodes. The mill became derelict, and a restoration was undertaked by the Dutch millwright Christiaan Bremer. The restored mill was opened on 1 February 1936 by Dr Lorentz, the Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary to the Netherlands. The ceremony was attended by the Prime Minister, General Hertzog and flour was ground for the guests.[1]

The mill was worked occasionally but it became derelict during the Second World War.[2] In 1986, the windshaft broke and the sails crashed to the ground.[3] The Vernacular Architecture Society of South Africa started a campaign to preserve the mill, leading to the formation of the Friends of Mostert's Mill in 1993.[2] A further restoration in 1995 by Dunning-Bremer returned the mill to working order again at a cost of R245,000.[4]


Mostert's Mill in the 1900s, showing the original wooden poll end on the windshaft

Mostert's Mill is a three storey tower mill. The tower is 7.94 metres (26 ft 1 in) diameter externally at ground level, and is 6.68 metres (21 ft 11 in) high. It is constructed of random stone for the first 2.28 metres (7 ft 6 in) and then unbaked bricks above. The walls are 1.15 metres (3 ft 9 in) thick at ground level, giving the mill an internal diameter of 5.64 metres (18 ft 6 in).[5]

The cap is of a truncated cone shape and is covered by thatch.[1] The mill has four common sails and is winded by a tailpole.[1]. The four common sails follow the Dutch tradition, as there were no sails surviving when Bremer restored the mill in 1935.[1] Those fitted at the 1935 restoration were 6.00 metres (19 ft 8 in) long and 1.75 metres (5 ft 9 in) wide, fitted with a windboard on the leading edge. Such a feature was not to be found on other South African windmills.[1] The sails, which have a span of 14.45 metres (47 ft 5 in), were carried on a teak windshaft,[5] which was fitted with a cast iron poll end in 1935, as it has rotted. Contemporary South African windmills all had wooden windshafts, apart from one of the Salt River windmills, which had an iron cross.[1] A replacement iroko windshaft was fitted in 1995.[5] The windshaft carries a clasp arm brake wheel,[1] which has a diameter of 770 millimetres (2 ft 6 in) and has 47 cogs.[5] It drove the single pair of millstones,[1] via a lantern pinion stone nut,[1] which has 16 staves. The millstones comprise the original runner stone, and a non-original bedstone. This latter is a Cullen stone installed in 1935, and came from a windmill at Leens, Groningen, Netherlands.[5]

Location and access

Mostert's Mill is situated on the M3 close to the University of Cape Town on the slopes of Devil's Peak where it is a prominent landmark. The Friends of Mostert's Mill operate the mill and it is open to the public on one Saturday a month between 10:00 and 14:30.[6]



  • Walton, James (1974). Water-mills windmills and horse mills of South Africa. Cape Town and Johannesburg: C Struik. ISBN 0 86977 040 3. 

External links

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