In 1659, Anthony van Eyndhoven submitted the request to build a windmill on one of the town gates: the Leuterpoort. That particular town gate – a tower built as living quarters – was constructed in the 14th century. Times were tough, financially. By building a bark mill, Anthony wanted to contribute to Wijk bij Duurstede’s employment opportunities. The product of a bark mill, tanbark, is finely ground bark from oak trees, used for tanning leather. Wheat was not to be ground on Rijn en Lek. That was the privilege of the Han Loyentoren, Ruisdael’s windmill. There was a lot of protest from surrounding inhabitants, who were afraid the odour would be a nuisance. But permission was given to first demolish a part of the gate and build a mill on top. By buying the house next to the mill, Van Eyndhoven solved the problem of resisting neighbours. For the next centuries, this house became the miller’s living quarters. After Anthony van Eyndhoven, the windmill had several owners. These were not always the millers, but also owners for whom the mill served as an investment. Until the Napoleonic period, Ruisdael’s mill was the only mill allowed to grind wheat. The last years of its existence, it served as an oil mill, while the Buitenmolen (Outside Mill), which used to be across from the Albert Heijn, was the community’s wheat mill. Around 1820, Ruisdael’s mill and the Buitenmolen were torn down. From that moment onward, the Rijn and Lek mill also ground wheat. In 1824, Jocobus Johannes de Heus bought the windmill Rijn en Lek, which would remain in the family for five generations. Because of the rise of mechanisation and bad management by the family, business declined. In 1914, Pieter de Heus’ business went bankrupt and he put the windmill up for sale. For 11.000 guilders, the windmill because the property of a cooperation. In 1924, the windmill was again put up for sale. Three farmers, the gentlemen Van Dijk, Lokhorst and Schoenmaker, bought Rijn and Lek. Miller Gerrit Jan Roodvoets became the manager. Business went well, but more and more was carried out by machinery. The windmill was no longer necessary for grinding. The danger of the building being torn down was no longer imaginary. To prevent losing the windmill, without which we could no longer imagine our river landscape, a committee of concerned citizens was formed, under the leadership of Frits Thieme. They managed to raise six thousand guilders, which for that time was a large amount of money.
Contact was established with The Dutch Mill Society (De Vereniging de Hollandsche Molen), which was founded in 1923 for the preservation of Dutch windmills. And yes… the Dutch Mill Society came up with a solution. Windmill Rijn en Lek, sold for three thousand guilders, became the society’s first acquired windmill. For the symbolic amount of one guilder, the city council relinquished ownership of the gate underneath. The windmill’s former owners could rent it from the society for 150 guilders a year, while Gerrit Jan Roodvoets remained the manager. If there wasn’t enough wind to use the mill, wheat was ground electrically in the buildings behind the big miller’s house.
In 1941, Gerrit Jan Roodvoets discovered a stairway that had been walled off for years. On the stairway, a large amount of tanbark was found. Until 1964, two stairways up to the mill were in use: one from the granary to the gallery, and the stairway as we know it today. During the war, the windmill was taken into use again to air in food supply. That almost went wrong on 6 September 1944, when the windmill’s sweeps went into a frenzy during a very heavy storm. The upright shaft was destroyed completely, but the brothers Jan and Henk van den Hurk, from the shipbuilding yard, managed to repail the windmill though it was not their trade. Wheat could once again be ground for the citizens of Wijk bij Duurstede.
In 1946, the sweeps got caught up in the wind again, but the windmill could be repaired. In 1959, one of the sweeps broke during a storm. The sweeps from a mill in Erp were brought to Wijk bij Duurstede then, which was quite the adventure. From 1972 onward, the mill has been managed by voluntary millers. The cap has been taken off and refurbished. In 1997, it was reopened with a celebratory ceremony, performed by its then patron, Prince Claus.