Preetjes Molen, or the windmill "Deprez" at Heule (near Kortrijk) is an important landmark of the industrial history of the South of West-Flanders, Belgium. Because it was (and is) solely used for flax scutching, it is exceptional if not unique in the history of the art and craft of a windmill.
"Preetjes Molen" is indeed a small flax scutching windmill, constructed in 1866 by Ivo Deprez, who owned the location. In the town of Heule and in the wider area there were more than 10 flax scutching mills at that stage. Today, however, only one of these is left. As far as we know, there are no equivalents of the Mill Deprez throughout Europe.
On 20 January 1872 there was a fire, caused in an attempt to stop the mill during a ferocious storm. The brake being overheated, caught fire. The mill was reconstructed afterwards and was fully operative until the death of the miller in 1913. His children took over, but the World War decided otherwise. The mill fell into disrepair.
In the late 1930's, the mill was restored, but for cosmetic reasons only. When the proper authorities officially listed the flax scutching mill as a historic monument on 28 April 1944, hopes for more adequate restoration were regained. In 1959, however, a new restoration project proved to be rather another superficial reconditioning of what once was the "Preetjes Molen".
In 1992, the mill was let out on tenure by long lease to the newly founded non-profit organisation Vrienden van Preetjes Molen ("The Friends of the Flax Scutching Mill Deprez)" . Only after thorough and scholarly inquiries in the history of this particular mill, a reconstruction was started. The first step included the groundwork and the brickwork (ground floor), as well as the construction of the wooden superstructure (in Dutch "torenkot"), the millpost and the sail axle. The second phase, with the reconstruction of the wings, was started on 6 June 1996. Also, the machinery inside and the swinglebars were installed. On completion (at date and officially speaking still provisional), the mill was fully operational. On 6 October 1996, the flax scutching mill Deprez was officially reopened.
The mill can be visited, and the breaking and the scutching of flax can actually be shown.
The preservation of the windmill is purely voluntary work, wholly unpaid, and fuelled by the love for "Preetjes Molen" only.