WORK is under way to transform a former flour mill in west Oxford into riverside flats.

Developers have surrounded Osney Mill with scaffolding and will now build a completely new internal structure, with only the walls of the old building remaining.

Archaeologists are also excavating nearby to discover more about the history of the 15th century Osney Abbey, which will be turned into office space.

The mill, which was destroyed by a fire in the mid-1940s, will become 10 new flats as part of a gated community.

Much of the electricity will be generated by one of the first hydro-electric stations on the Thames.

Site owners, the Munsey family, have been milling in Oxfordshire for four generations.

Last night, Tony Munsey said he was delighted work had started.

He said: “The builders moved in on January 4 and we estimate the project should take about 55 weeks in total to complete. Only the walls of the mill remain standing, so it is effectively a new build.

“We have to create a new structure inside which will become the flats.”

The Munseys have owned Osney Abbey since 1910.

After the dissolution of the monasteries, the abbey fell into disrepair and its huge bell was moved to Tom Tower at Christ Church.

Part of the site includes Osney Marina.

The mill produced flour for bread. After the fire, production moved to Wantage.

Mr Munsey said the site is an important part of Oxford’s history.

He said: “The abbey is a schedule monument, which means it is considered to be of national importance.

“We have had it dated to 1410, which was incredibly exciting because for the first time we knew how old it was.

“I suspect it must be one of the oldest buildings in Oxford and we will turn it into an open space, which would be perfect for an office or art gallery.

“We are trying to retain the historical aspects of the area while bringing it up to date.”

Mr Munsey said the micro-hydro-electricity generating scheme could help alleviate the risk of flooding to homes on Osney Island and would use technology based on the Archimedean screw.

The station will be positioned at the original Osney Mill cut.

Stephen Lynam, who lives in South Street and is a member of the Osney Island Residents’ Association, said: “Any work that retains its historical character must be welcomed.”