Written by C. Rolé
Some brief notes on windmills
Since antiquity human civilizations have always tried to exploit the full potential of cereals and fruit in order to fight famine and illness. Among the most popular cereals used by humans is wheat, which is milled and prepared for bread making, the staple food of our people. In order to make the work less fatiguous, wind mills were developed (Żurrieq Local Council, 2003).
The history of wind mills dates back to hundreds and hundreds of years. Ancient biblical writings refer to wind mills operated manually. These mills consisted of large rooms with their roof sustained by arches. In the middle of the room, there used to be a large, flat, round stone made of limestone on which a wooden trunk used to be placed vertically reaching the ceiling. Another stone of similar properties used to be attached to the trunk and placed 90 degrees and above the flat stone. By turning the upper stone on the lower one, the wheat used to be grounded and made into flour (Żurrieq Local Council, 2003).
The traditional mills operated by wind were seen for the first time in Eastern Europe precisely in Greece and Turkey at around the 12th century. Towards the second half of the 13th century, these wind mills were introduced in our country and till the arrival of the Knights of St. John in 1530; the number of mills in Malta went up to 42. Grand Master Cottoner was really interested in these wind operated mills and used to consider them as a potential revenue generation industry. In 1674, the Cottoner foundation was established and the construction of a number of windmills was initiated in many locations which included Bormla, Żebbug, Naxxar, Żurrieq and 2 windmills in Floriana. The Cottoner foundation later on also built more windmills in Lija, Żejtun, Gudja and also another eight at Żebbug. In 1724 the Manoel foundation increased further the number of mills in our country. These new mills were built in a number of locations and included Rabat, Għargur, Żurrieq and another one located between Żejtun and Ħal Għaxaq (DOI, 2005).
Throughout the years, many of these mills were destroyed whereas others were abandoned. However one of these windmills, i.e. the one of Żurrieq, known as 'il-mitħna tax-Xarolla' is still in a very good state (though last year, some damages were made to the mill during a storm) after proper restoration was held. The Xarolla windmill was restored in two phases: the first phase was accomplished in 1998, and the second phase was accomplished between the years 2004 and 2005 (DOI, 2005).
A brief outline on the history of the Xarolla windmill
The Xarolla windmill was built during the Knights period and is one of the four mills that that used to provide the necessary flour for bread making to our village and the neighbourhood. Situated in the area known as 'Xarolla', this windmill was given the name of its location, therefore commonly referred to as 'tax-Xarolla'. The Xarolla windmill is one of the 8 mills of the Manoel foundation and was constructed on a government owned land in 1724 by Grand Master Manoel De Vilhena. This mill consists of an entrance, 2 halls on each side of the entrance, a counter entrance, a yard and kitchen on the backside and a large yard with an ox stall on the side (Żurrieq Local Council, 2003).
In 1946, the Government of Malta decided to perform some restoration works on the outside area of the mill since the mill mechanism was established to be still in a good state. The owner of a windmill in Qala (Gozo), was commisioned to set up the necessary antennae and carry out the necessary repairs on the mill. Unfortunately the antennae were destroyed during a storm in 1979 and hence the mill was completely abandoned and fell under the custody of the Maltese Government (Żurrieq Local Council, 2003).
After some years, the Xarolla wind mill fell under under the custody of the Żurrieq local council and in 1998 was restored (DOI, 2005). In October 1998 the mill's mechanism was fully operational so that it was used once again to prepare flour. The mill is still under the administration of the Żurrieq Local Council and is currently used as a cultural site where activities and events are held from time (Żurrieq Local Council, 2003).
Archeological findings in the nearby region of the Xarolla windmill
A number of tombs dating back hundreds of years were found all over the Maltese Islands. In the nearby regions of the Xarolla windmill, a complex of ancient tombs were found in August of 1926, whose entrance is located near one of the walls of the Xarolla Windmill. After some years during an excavation another tomb was found carved into the rock in which some human remains together with some pottery were located dating back the 700 BC (Guillaumier, 1987). These tombs present some architectural features that are not commonly found in other tombs on the Maltese Islands (Żurrieq Local Council, 2010).
Department of Information (2005.). Wirja permanenti dwar l-imtieħen tar-riħ. Available at http://www.doi.gov.mt/EN/press_release/2005/02/pr0282.asp. Accessed on Sunday, 21st February, 2010.
Guillaumier, A. (Ed) (1987). Iż-Żurrieq f'Bliet u Rħula Maltin. 35, (pp. 953 - 971). Valletta: Valletta Publishing and Promotions Co Ltd.
Żurrieq Local Council (2003.). Noti miġbura mill-Kunsill Lokali relatati ma' dan l-artiklu.
Żurrieq Local Council (2010.). L-istorja tal-lokalità Available at: http://www.lc.gov.mt/Page.aspx?catid=62&pid=220. Accessed on 12th May, 2010.