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watermill at Poupet
the watermill under the viaduct at la Barbin

Windmills and Watermills

Over the centuries the Vendée has made good use of the many rivers and streams that cross the Department by harnessing their power to drive watermills. The power derived by these mills was used for paper making, tanning, cloth and wool weaving, fuller mills for degreasing and felting woolen fabrics, mills for washing and dying cloth,Thistle mills with teasle covered drums for finishing woolen fabrics, powder-mills for crushing charcoal, saltpeter & sulfur and mills for grinding grain.
On the River Sévre Nantaise there were no fewer than 145 water mills along a short stretch of this picturesque river.
There are now only a few that are still working, other mills have had their structures restored to be used as private residences or let out as holiday rentals.
Watermills somehow conjure up images of idyllic beauty spots, with gentle flowing rivers bubbling along tree lined valleys with kingfishers darting with flashes of blue, weirs with quaint stone built houses inside which the wheels and cogs turn rhythmically to the sound of cascading water.

Below we have listed a few water mills that can be visited or can be seen in their privileged locations.

Maison de la Riviere In the north east corner of the Vendee on the river Petite Maine near St Georges Montaigu is the maison de la riviere which is devoted to life of the river.

Maison de la Meunerie. Nieul-sur-l'Autise this working water mill turns out flour for local bakeries and you can come and watch the miller at work.
Moulin a Elise. Just outside the small town of Poire-sur-Vie this watermill is open to the public during the summer season.

Moulin de Rambourg. On the river Yon at Nesmy this watermill is open for visits during the summer season.

Foulon Mill, Cugand The last water driven foulon mill in France.
Windmills have been an integral part of the landscape of the Vendée since the 14th century, there are no less than 207 listed though many of these are now only ruins and only a few are in their original working condition. There are others that have been converted into dwellings and there are even a couple that can be rented as holiday homes. The earliest dates from the 14th century, there are others from the 16th and 17th century but by far the majority date from the 18th and 19th centuries. All but two are of the (traditional) "tower mill" design which was the more tradition style where a conical tower has a rotating head which is moved to turn the sails into the wind by the use of a long tail pole (Guivre) that stretches down to the ground.

During the Wars of the Vendée windmills were used to relay the position of the Republican troops by changing the angle the sails,
1. In an X position "all was quiet"
2. Anti-clockwise dog position, "danger over"
3. Clockwise dog position, "danger troop arriving"
4. In a + shape as in the photo opposite, "gathering Troops.
By these means the Vendéen army gained a real time advantage. It is thought that the semaphore telegraph was based on this simple but clever communication system.

Below are listed a few of the more interesting windmills that can be seen

Moulin des Gourmands
St Reverend. Not far from St.Gilles-Croix-de-Vie this windmill is open for guided tours and for the purchase of produce including bread from their own bakery.

Moulin de Raire The only windmill in France that has never been out of action since it was built in 1560. Come visit this unique windmill and see the art of the miller.

Moulin des Alouettes
At Les Herbiers in the North Vendée the last working windmill in the area, out of the seven original mills and is open to the public.

Petit Moulin de Chateauneuf. This 300 year old windmill has been in the same family for its entire life and still to this dayproduces flour.

Moulin Pacouinay, This little windmill near Oulmes is open to the Public. It has a small museum.

Moulin des Justices. St.Michel mont Mercure, open to the public.

Moulin Jumeaux du Terrier Marteau. Pouzauges.

Colline des Moulins. Mouilleron-en-Pareds

Moulin de Bots Pias. Longville-sur-Mer. Privately owned.

Jardin du Vent. In the heart of the old village stands an old windmill with strange sails and below in the garden are all manner of things connected to wind.

Moulin de Bel Air. La Rabataliére, standing on top of the hill close to the  Sanctuary de Notre Dame de Salette. The mill was built in 1700, but was destroyed in the Vendeé Wars, rebuilt in 1800 only to be abandoned in 1943, originally canvas sails powered the mill,  later modernised with slatted, Berton sails. Restoration has taken some time and can again be seen in action. open Journée des Moulins in june, and on the Journées du Patrimoine in September.

Moulin de la Vergne. In the village of Daunière,  Lucs-sur-Boulogne, the mill of La Vergne deserves a special visit. This water mill, bought in ruins in 1979 by Yvonne Mace and her husband, now deceased, has returned thanks to the stubbornness of the owners and some local artisans, a real gem stone nestled in the foliage and flowers.
The mechanism of the mill entirely renovated by Frederick Magaud, the blacksmith, and Remi Pilard, the carpenter who also serves as a miller can grind a flour of high quality that Ms. Mace is delighted to offer its visitors.

Windmills to rent as Holiday Homes.

St Cyr des Gats This windmill which was built in 1885 has been beautifully renovated to a high standard and now offers a romantic holiday location for two.

Return to find more Attractions of the Vendée
moulin fouques
watermill in the park of la Barbinier
Moulin a Foulon. Last working water driven woolen mill in France.
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