The Hude Watermill | History

The Hude watermill
The exact history of the monastery water mill in Hude has been lost over the centuries. Today, we can only speculate about the original location, as there have been no archaeological excavations for the purpose of finding it. It can be assumed, however, that the first mill was located on a small tributary of Hude Creek. Its foundation is likely connected with the construction of the Cistercian monastery in Hude in the mid-13th century. The remains of an ancient brook still existed into the 1960s, but this was filled in during the expansion of the Hude Creek in 1966. It can be seen that the monks at Hude excavated and dammed the creek to create a 0.3 hectare pond. This pond was dug by arduous manual labor with ‘sod upon sod’. Presently, this tiny pond is tucked away in the manor park.

The mill site that exists today at Geesthang was well-chosen for its ‘Mittelschächtiges’ water wheel, or a water wheel for milling in which the center or hub of the wheel is at the height of the incoming water. This means that the wheel is operated by not only the weight of the water, but the force at which the water strikes it.

After a fire in 1524, the mill stones from the monastery buildings were successfully used to rebuild it. When Count Anton I of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst (*1505 – †1573) reunited the counties in 1547, the mill became very prominent.

At the time, the water mill had two millstones. The mill was a so-called compulsory mill for the villages surrounding Hude: Lintel, Hurrel, Vielstedt and Gruppenbühren. The mill secured for the landlords centuries of consistent income, and violations of its use were heavily punished.

From 1683 to 1687, the Danish hunting master and forester, Kurt Droste Veit von Witzleben, Lord of Hude and Elmeloh, was the official owner of the mill at Hude. The Von Witzleben family operated a short-lived monopoly on the milling process in the region. On the estate property there were a total of six water mills with more being added later, including one of the most famous, the Mellelsberger windmill.

The current water mill was built in the 1800s. Dendrochronological records obtained in 2010 help to confirm this dating. The last tenant miller, Borgmann, led the mill’s operation until 1956. In the meantime, the mill was used from the 1920s until 1933 as the first inn and gymnastics club in Hude. In the two rooms of the mill, sleeping quarters were built after an agreement with the Baron was reached. Even then, the host of the tavern held the keys of control, and there was inconsistent use of the building. Events at the inn and the tavern eventually came to a head and the inn was ultimately closed and replaced by the current Inn. 

By 1966 the mill was in extremely poor condition. It even came close to demolition. However, and by happy coincidence, the creek in Hude was heavily reinforced in 1961 to protect the village from floods, and this flood-proofing expanded to the mill. Further restoration work began in 1967. The masonry and frame had to be renewed to a large extent. This included the mill building itself and the back bakery. A terrace was added, which consists of the former foundation of the brick house.

Even the millwheel experienced many changes over the centuries. The change from a wooden wheel to a turbine for the generation of electricity was attempted by recreating the wheel from metal. At the time, many companies around the Hude community came to assist the aging mill. Unfortunately, the calculations were incorrect and it was eventually conceded that the structure of the building itself was not compatible with such a large and heavy metal wheel. In addition to fluctuating water levels, it could not be guaranteed that enough pressure could be generated to efficiently operate the entire apparatus. However, the wheel still remains.

For this reason, new uses for the mill had to be conceived. In 1975 the Hadrich family made an art gallery and cultural center from the mill containing the work of renowned artists from the region. For 33 years, the operation of the mill in this way has helped preserve it as a wonderful piece of heritage and culture.