Kinderdijk UNESCO World Heritage cherishes the heritage of the Pot Brothers.

In Kinderdijk lies a piece of hidden history: the contribution of the Pot Brothers to the mills. While most traces of their shipyard and mill sail factory faded over time, we collaborate with the Province of Zuid-Holland to preserve and highlight this legacy for the public.

Kinderdijk is not only known as a village for its mills but also for its prominent shipbuilders. This story dates back to the nineteenth century, a period during which these two elements intersected. In a time when the shipbuilding market fluctuated, Scheepswerf de Gebroeders Pot near Kinderdijk seized its opportunities by focusing on other possibilities. Known for their expertise in riveting iron, they saw a unique opportunity to apply these skills in another field – namely, in the adjacent mill area.


Ship Masts vs. Mill Sails

As shipbuilders, the Pot Brothers were skilled in riveting iron, a technique they applied to, among other things, ship masts. And these ship masts happened to bear great resemblance to our mill sails. The middle beam of the mill sails traditionally consisted of three interconnected wooden beams. These wooden mill sails lasted an average of twenty-five years. But wood being a natural product, wooden sails sometimes unexpectedly broke, with all its consequences. Hence, the need to make mill sails from a different material increased significantly.

The result was the innovative riveted Pot Sail, patented in 1852. This technology provided a sustainable solution to the traditional wooden mill sails. With the riveted Pot Sail, mills could operate for longer periods and were less susceptible to breakage. Some sails now lasted up to 130 years! Thus, they made a valuable contribution to the water management of the region.


From Wood to Iron

In addition to mill sails, the Pot firm also supplied other essential iron mill components, such as tail beams, brackets, and joint timbers. The influence of their craftsmanship extended far beyond the borders of Kinderdijk, with their products spread across the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.


Pot Family

The Pot family was an influential one. With a rich history in shipbuilding and various shipyards, they had already amassed a considerable fortune. Members of the Pot family also held administrative positions, such as in the water board of the Nederwaard. Through this avenue, acquiring initial contracts must have been easier.

The mill sail factory with the riveted Pot Sail became a great success. This success was also well reflected. Family members resided in the magnificent house of the Nederwaard and the adjacent three stately homes. Through a bequest, a large donation was made to the village of Kinderdijk: Leendert Pot donated a completely new church building to Kinderdijk, so that people no longer had to travel to the nearby town of Nieuw-Lekkerland. This church, designed by Jan Wils of De Stijl, was realized in 1924 right next to the shipyard and still serves as the church of Kinderdijk.


Photo: Dukker, G.J, Rijksdienst voor Cultureel Erfgoed, Documentnummer 502.594

Maintaining History

Although the glory of the Pot firm faded over time, their legacy continues to live on thanks to the efforts of the Kinderdijk World Heritage Foundation. Since 2018, our foundation has owned the site where the shipyard and mill sail factory once stood. In collaboration with the Province of Zuid-Holland, we are committed to preserving and highlighting the last remnants of the history of the Pot Brothers for the public.

Gebroeders Pot

Aerial photo featuring the site of the Pot Brothers

Zoomed in on the wooden shed from circa 1850

The wooden shed as it stands today

Various Restorations

One of the preserved remains is the wooden shed from circa 1850, which still stands on the site. This shed, once used by the Pot firm, will soon be restored to its original state. Also, the forged railing of the monumental house at Molenstraat 228 was recently restored and reinstalled thanks to financial support from the Province of Zuid-Holland. This curved railing was essential for maneuvering the long sails, which could sometimes be as long as thirty meters. Thus, little by little, we are bringing this story back to Kinderdijk.

The curved railing for the long sails

Necessary for maneuvering the meters-long sails

Riveted Sails Returning to Kinderdijk

The mills of Kinderdijk no longer have Pot sails. However, the intention is to reintroduce riveted sails of the original Pot firm model. Therefore, a riveted sail is being ordered for Overwaard mill 1 from Vaags Molenwerken in Aalten. This is the only manufacturer that still supplies such sails.


The author

Lisanne Vermaas

Lisanne Vermaas

Allround Marketeer