Ta’ Kola Windmill is situated in the heart of the village of Xaghra, Gozo, and is one of the few surviving windmills on the Maltese Islands dating back to the Knights’ Period. It takes us a step back in time to the trade of the miller, and is a fine example of the rural economy and domestic life of Gozo in bygone times. It was opened to the public as a museum in 1992.
The origins of Ta’ Kola Windmill go back to 1725 during the magistracy of Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena (1722-36), and it was constructed by the Manoel Foundation which took its name after that of the same Grand Master. This Foundation was set up to fund windmills in order to sustain the demands of the increasing population of Malta and Gozo. Since its birth, Ta’ Kola Windmill seems to have incorporated bad quality stones and mortar and had to be dismantled and reconstructed during the 1780s. The mill appears to have been a valuable, thriving business since the annual rent for the building increased as it passed from owner to owner.
This windmill changed hands several times up to the early 20th century when it came into ownership of the Grech family, an established family of millers from Mosta, Malta. The Grechs continued to run the windmill up to the 1980s. Guzeppi Grech, the last of the Grech millers, was responsible for operating and maintaining the structure, and resided in this windmill until his death in 1987. He was an ingenious craftsman and many of the tools on display were created by him. The windmill’s name Ta’ Kola is also synonymous with him since he was popularly known as Zeppu ta’ Kola (Joseph the son of Nikola).
The miller would have been a skilled craftsman probably trained in a wide range of trades. Apart from operating the windmill, he would likely have performed several secondary jobs to keep himself employed when weather conditions meant he was unable to operate the mill. When the wind was favourable for the mill to be operated, the miller would let the locals know by blowing through a triton-shell (Maltese bronja) in trumpet-like fashion from his rooftop. Villagers would then bring their cereals to be ground into flour. To increase the efficiency of the mill, the external antennae were equipped with large canvas sails.
The construction of Ta’ Kola Windmill follows a plan which is echoed in most Maltese windmills of the period, and consists of a number of rooms on two floors surrounding the centrally-placed cylindrical stone tower. The latter houses the milling mechanism which may be accessed via a spiral staircase. The main set-up consists of two circular hard-wearing stones placed on top of each other to crush the grain forced between the two rotating surfaces.
The external milling mechanism consisting of the six antennae radiating from a central shaft are currently under reconstruction.