The Ancient Grinding Mills at Leine, Valdres

There are many different types of grinding mills and many types of materials processed in them. Historically mills were powered by hand (mortar and pestle), working animal (horse mill), wind (windmill) or water (watermill). The grinding mills at Leine are water powered and situated next to a creek called Leineåne. There used to be 13 grinding mills at Vennis, but most of them were destroyed during the big flood back in 1860. Here you can see photos and read about this old Norwegian history.

This area is called Leine and it’s situated in Vang, valdres, Norway. The mills are water driven – hence the name water mills – but the mills at Leine is also called Gristmills, or corn mills – used for grinding grains into flour. Usually the grinding took place during spring or autumn, when the water levels peaked. That’s why these mills are also called «spring mills» in Norwegian.
These were undoubtedly the most common kind of mill. Flour mills were first mentioned in legal documents in Valdres in 1334, but they are probably much older. Every farm owning a water-fall had its own mill. In 1729 there were 79 mills in the Vang area: in 1919 the number had been reduced to 16.

The earliest evidence of a water-driven wheels are from the 3rd century BCE, and in Norway mills have been in use since the Middle Ages. Upstream the river was dammed up to be channeled when the mills were being used. One of the mill houses have today been restored and is fully operational.

On the north side of Leineåne (Leine Creek), next to the dam, there is also a channel leading the water to a bigger mill – the only one that was being used to grind the grain of farms that didn’t have/couldn’t afford their own mill.

All the farms in Vennis had their mills on the stream Leineåni. The Sparstad mill was probably built before 1800, the other mills were either built or reconstructed after 1860, when a great landslide ruined most of the houses in the Leine district.  The mills and farms were rebuilt, and today 5 of the grinding mills have been restored og they are nicely located in this special culture landscape.

Steinar Gjevre made this drawing that shows how the mills are built and with the names of the different parts. (click to enlarge).

From the 1930’s until World War II the mills were used for grinding malt for the brewing of beer, and for grinding corn for fodder. Valdres Folkemuseum (Valdres Folk Museum), Fagernes, is responsible for looking after the mills and keeping them in repair, while the council of Vang pays for maintenance.

Nearby you’ll also find Leinesanden (The Leine Sand/ Leine Beach) which is said is the place where «St. Olaf» (Olaf II Haraldsson, Olav Den Hellige) tried to violently force christianity upon the inhabitants of Vang. When «St. Olaf» forced the new faith upon the people of Norway, he & his fellow christian men mutilated or murdered those who refused to accept the new god, and in some cases they also stole people’s property, so that they could fully comprehend the greatness of Jesus Christ (later on Christianity also stole pre-christian celebrations such as christmas & easter).

The nature in the area provides a perfect scenery for trekking & fishing, and you can also find burial mounds from pre-christian times.

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Wikipedia: Mill (grinding)
Info poster located at site

10 thoughts on “The Ancient Grinding Mills at Leine, Valdres

  1. This is amazing and your photography is spectacular! So, the decline in the mills by 1919 was due to landslides or other such disasters? On another note, it is such a shame, the murders carried out in the name of religion.

  2. Thanks for a very nice comment. I’m very please to hear that you like my photography 🙂

    Your question on why there was a decline in the use of the mills is very good!
    I actually read about this while researching the subject, but I forgot to incorporate it into the article, so thank you for reminding me!

    Towards the end of the 18th century larger, licensable mills that could grind bigger quantities and in different qualities were being built. It proved difficult to get farmers to transport grain to the larger plants, as it took time and cost money. So in 1929 a crop insurance law was introduced to force the farmers to use the new mills. The crop insurance law gave incentives to those farmers who used the new mills.

    And, something that I also forgot to mention: in the area you can also find giant’s kettles or potholes. Like this one:

    And apropos religion: yes the murders were horrible, but on our trip we visited several stave churches dating back to the viking era, so religion is not all bad (a post on Norwegian stave churces will come soon).

  3. Thanks for your nice work with this article. At least one mill is still working, We used it this spring. I have some nice photos on my facebook-page from that event.

  4. Hi Jan.
    Hopefully we can come and have a look next time the mill is in action, it would be nice to follow-up and expand this article with photos from such an event.

  5. Thanks Margie. It was a great day for photographing. The only problem was that the light conditions kept changing all the time because of the clouds, but the result turned out okay.
    Here you can see bigger versions of the photos, I don’t know why but the wordpress slideshow only presents small versions of the photos (also when you click each single photo to enlarge, it just shows a small version). So, bigger photos here (click the photo to see the next one):

  6. Wow, Leine is such a beautiful place…very enchanting. The mills blend so well with the environment and you have captured it all so well.

    The water from the dam is flowing so well. I love your pictures.

  7. Pingback: A re-make of The Grinding Mills at Leine | Cardinal Guzman

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