Historical mills of Lithuanian manors

2020 07 07

The mills built in the manors used to serve the needs of all the inhabitants of the area. The mills are very different: there are those reaching for the sky, and those located near water bodies. The constantly rotating mill filled with squeaks and rumbling was extremely important to the people living in the area, often mentioned in folk art and by writers. Today, we know about some mills of Lithuanian manors only from historical sources, while others, which have survived, become monuments of heritage, history and technology that attract tourists.

The mill of Kairėnai Manor in the vicinity of Vilnius University Botanical Garden

The visitors to the Vilnius University Botanical Garden, located in Kairėnai, can also visit the old building of the Kairėnai Manor mill, which today houses an information centre, a restaurant, and hosts events.

The Kairėnai stone mill was built in the middle of the 19th century, when the manor was ruled by J. M. Lopacinskis, while his wife DorotėjaMarikonytė-Lopacinskienė initiated many changes, renovation and arrangement works of the manor site. Initially, it was powered by water (there are many springs in Kairėnai Manor), according to the sources, the mill of Kairėnai Manor supplied flour to the city of Vilnius. In the middle of the 19th century - the beginning of the 20th century, the building was adapted for a steam mill. This two-storey Romantic-style building, with red brick decoration elements, is built on a slope on Kairėnai Manor site.

The 100-year-old turbine of the water mill in Liubavas Manor still rotates today
A water mill has long stood in Liubavas Manor near Vilnius, by the dammed Žalesa River, supplying flour and other products to the surrounding area. It is known that in 1746 a wooden mill was built here, and later, in 1902, a new brick building was built, the thick stone walls of which can be found today.
The mill houses a museum with expositions on history and technology. People often find the many functions of this building surprising. Here, besides the two grindstones that ground the grain, you can also see the facilities for grain cleaning, flour sifting, wool, wood and metal processing. At the beginning of the 20th century, the machinery of the mill was no longer driven by the old water wheel, but by the Swedish 70-horsepower turbine, which still operates today, thanks to which the mill still produces electricity using water - a renewable source of energy.

A skilfully built stone wall mill, decorated with red brick cornices and window edgings, is believed to be the work done by guest craftsmen from the Scandinavian region rather than the local masters. The water mill of Liubavas Manor is one of only a few objects in Lithuania that have been awarded the Europa Nostra prize.

The first hydroelectric power plant in Lithuania operated in the mill of Kretinga Manor
Through the efforts of the then landlords of Kretinga Manor, a stone masonry water mill was built in Kretinga, by the Akmena River, around 1770. It was managed by the owners of the Kretinga Manor at that time and later: the bishop of Vilnius IgnotasJokūbasMasalskis, VincentasPotockis, PlatonasZubovas, and the family of Counts Tiškevičius. This one-storey building with stone masonry, plastered walls and a Dutch tile roof is located along the street. A tavern, that belonged to the manor, used to stand next to the mill. The mill served the inhabitants of Kretinga city and its surroundings. In 1917–1918, the first hydroelectric power plant in Kretinga and in Lithuania operated in this building. The mill was later sold, in 1940 it was nationalised, and finally closed in 1968. Today, the old water mill has been reconstructed and is open to visitors.
The mill of Akmena Manor is described in the short story by Jonas Biliūnas

An exceptional building standing by the road, the mill that belongs to Akmena Manor in Anykščiaidistrict, catches the eye of every passer-by. A Dutch-type cap windmill with solid stone walls seems to hold many stories between its thick walls. Built in the second half of the 19th century in Akmena Manor, this building provided flour to all the inhabitants of the area for many years.  At the beginning of the 20th century, it was one of the largest windmills in Lithuania: its base diameter is14 meters, its top diameter is 7 meters, wall thickness is 1 meter, and the 12.5-meter-long wing tops used to reach a height of 30 meters. The mill of Akmena Manor also caught the eye of a famous writer Jonas Biliūnas - lovers of history and fiction can read about this mill in a short story “Windmill” written in 1901 by this prose writer.

The mill of Burbiškis Manor is mentioned in songs
Written sources mention a mill belonging to the Burbiškis Manor in Anykščiai district, which has long stood by the Anykšta River. A story goes that local peasants, displeased with the meadows and fields flooded by the mill’s dam, burned the mill and demolished the dam in 1905. About 50 men were involved in this widely known event, many of whom were arrested by government officials at the time.

The mill of Burbiškis Manor is mentioned in an old song about the surroundings of Bičionys and Burbiškis.

The water mill has survived in the ensemble of Raguvėlė Manor buildings

On a huge site of Raguvėlė Manor, on an area of twenty hectares, two dozen buildings have survived to this day. One of them is a water mill of rectangular plan with a basement floor and a penthouse.

For a long time, from the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, the Raguvėlė Manor was ruled by members of the Komaras family. The manor especially expanded and prospered in the late 18th century - the first half of the 19th century. In 1940, the manor was nationalised, it housed educational institutions, and after the Restoration of Independence, Raguvėlė Manor was returned to the heirs of the Komaras family.

The mill of Čiobiškis Manor by the Musė River
In the 19th century, when the Pilsudskis family farmed in Čiobiškis Manor, a water mill and a dam were built by the Musė River (a tributary of the Neris). There were few mills in the area, so the importance of the Čiobiškis water mill was huge, the two mills here were not short of work, moreover, other services were provided - wool carding, groats production, flour sifting... This mill continued to operate for some time after the Restoration of Independence, and the children from the area would come to see how the mill’s machinery worked.

In the park of Baisogala Manor you can still see an old Dutch-style cap windmill built during the time it was ruled by the Komaras family. In the 19th century, the mill also operated in the Aštrioji Kirsna Manor, where four of the former several buildings of the manor have been rebuilt and are used today.

Learning about the mills of the old manors is a great cultural entertainment for families, as well as anyone interested in history and the technology of the past. Those looking for interesting places around Vilnius are welcome to visit the mills of Kairėnai and Liubavas Manor, those travelling to the seaside can visit the mill of Kretinga Manor, and those in Anykščiai district can go and see the mill of Akmena Manor. While visiting Lithuanian manors, you can discover the mysterious stories of the mills, even if the mills themselves are not available.