The mill building dates from the 16th century, but we do not know exactly when the first barn was built. The Ferraris map (late 18th century) shows for the first time a building on the exact site of the current barn. The barn is clearly depicted on maps and land register plans of the 19th century.
We know this thanks to paintings, etchings and photographs from the first half of the 20th century. It was a half-timbered barn with a thatched or straw roof. However, that barn has disappeared, perhaps in the late 1940s, early 1950s, presumably after a fire.
Until 1977, the current barn stood on a yard on Veldkant street, about 500 meters from the Tommenmolen. At the initiative of the municipal council of Grimbergen and with the help of the Bokrijk open-air museum, the barn was fully measured, photographed and dismantled. The wooden framework went to Bokrijk for restoration and was subsequently erected on the site of the lost barn at the Tommenmolen. The wattle and daub was redone and the roof covered with new thatch. In 1982 the barn was put into use as an exhibition space for the MOT.
About half a century ago you could still find many half-timbered buildings in Grimbergen. Now this barn is the only well-preserved wood and clay building left in Grimbergen. Half-timbering has also become very rare in the wider region. Half-timbering is barely protected, the natural materials require a lot of maintenance and the building land in the area is expensive. This means that not only the buildings, but also the knowledge to build a timber frame in the traditional way will disappear.
This barn's condition after forty years is beginning to deteriorate. The MOT cleared the shed in 2018 to make the wooden structure and the interior walls visible again. Now it is an original location for workshops, demonstrations and other public activities. Together with Monumentenwacht Vlaams-Brabant, we continuously monitor the condition of this building. With the financial support of the Flemish government, we will thoroughly repair and restore the thatched roof in 2021. We will be documenting these repairs and post them on this page.
The MOT filed an application for protection at the Onroerend Erfgoed administration in 2018. Unfortunately, it was denied because the administration has too little knowledge and data about half-timbered buildings in Flemish Brabant to be able to make a comparative study. Clearly, there is still a lot of basic fieldwork to be done to safeguard this heritage ...
Roof structure in 2018
Painting of the original barn by Ernest Betigny (1873 -1960)
Watercolor of the barn with Tommenmolen mill at the right by M. Van Heusden, 1946
Current barn at its original location in the Veldkant street (photo archive Bokrijk)
Disassembly of the barn at the end of the 1970s (photo archive Bokrijk)
Timber frame during restoration in Bokrijk (photo J. Vanwetswinkel)
New foundation and foot wall at the Tommenmolen (photo J. Vanwetswinkel)
Barn at the Tommenmolen in March 2017
Inspection and urgent repairs at the thatched roof in September 2020