Renovating The Mills of La Couscouillette
You just wouldn't believe the state the two Medieval windmills were in when La Couscouillette adopted us all those years ago. The Pointed Roof Mill had no roof, no windows, no doors, no floor... It was on the point of crumbling down to ground level. There was even a fig tree growing IN it!!!
Pointed Roof Mill 1977
Then, after we moved to La Couscouillette permanently we decided to resurrect the Pointed Roof Mill. We found historical drawings of similar mills which all had pointed roofs. However, the roofs were made of wooden boards which we didn't want.
We decided to rebuild according to the historical shape of the roof, which meant we had to use slate. Slate is of course not typical of local village roofs, although the Cite in Carcassonne has lots of slate towers. The lovely pink local tiles can not be used at such a steep slope so we decided to go for slate.
The nearest roofers who were specialised in slate roofs are to be found in the Montagne Noir. Which is how it came about that every day Charles and his helper drove about 60 km to come and build the roof on the Pointed Roof Mill.
Being French, they had to have their cooked daily lunch, which I prepared for them. Having fortified themselves with that and drunk a bottle or two of wine, off they'd go again, clambering high in the air on the roof of the mill. I was amazed that there were no accidents.
Before that point was reached though, Jean-Jacques, our local builder had already laid the foundations for the roofing work.
Here you see Jean-Jacques and my husband Allan working on what is to become the Pointed Roof Mill
The windmills date from the Cathar period (1266) and are probably the first windmills in the South of France. The historic interest of this property is well documented in an ancient book, recently reprinted; 'Montlaur-En-Val' (1926) in which an entire chapter is dedicated to La Couscouillette. The period is important in the history of France. For more details of the book and history of the mills please also look at History of the Mills of the Couscouillette .
The two mills, and maybe part of the house were built in the 13th cent. by Simon de Melun, one of the Northern conquerors of the South of France. He had them built so the villagers would no longer have to grind their corn and maize manually and individually. The windmills were new to France then, only watermills were well known.
It is said that Simon de Melun, well known in the history of France, brought the knowledge of the East concerning windmills (Crusades) to the S. of France. He purchased a piece of land called 'La Couscouilede' (the name of the hill) to build the mills on.
In the 14th cent. the windmills were destroyed, probably by the 'Black Prince' who had also burned down the town of Beziers, killing 20.000 people.
In the 16th cent. the Comte de Malacoste acquired 'rights on the wind' from the French king. He restored the two mills and became rich due to his monopoly position on the grinding of corn. After that he was given his title by the king. In those days farmers lived mainly from growing corn, not grapes.
Over the centuries the house was constantly changed and extended. Millers lived here up to the beginning of the 20th century. Around 1930 grinding the corn was no longer economically interesting. A shepherd moved into the house and mills with 300 sheep. He left around 1950 and the house stood empty, falling to ruin till we bought it in '77.
It was of course divine justice, or instant karma, whatever you want to call it, that the English Black Prince burned it down and we then bought it and it became our life's work to renovate it and make it live again!! At least, that is what the builders stated when we started renovating it... the English destroyed it, the English rebuilt it!