CRUCIAL work to restore Winchester’s historic water mill will begin today, with the medieval oak beams being exposed for the first time in more than 270 years.

The urgent project will see the Winchester City Mill’s permanent floor removed to repair the failing beams following a successful fundraising campaign.

Dating back well over a thousand years, the mill lies in the heart of the ancient capital of England and had weathered the course of time, until the building suffered huge flood damage in 2014.

Surveys revealed that many of the ancient beams were in a bad state of decay and the mill’s conservation charity quickly put temporary measures in place until funds could be raised for a permanent solution, keeping the landmark open to the public.

The repairs are set to last until early July, but today the crucial stage of the restoration work takes place.

A large section of the floor lying directly above the River Itchen will be removed, exposing the deteriorated oak beams and the basement below. The last time the mill would have been seen work like this was during restoration in 1744 by James Cooke – the mayor of Winchester and leaseholder of the mill at that time. A mill has stood on the site since Saxon times but the present structure dates back to the 18th century.

During the project the mill will be offering half-price entry to allow people to see the important conservation work progressing over the next few weeks from the mill’s special viewing platform.

A spokesman for the National Trust said: “This is a rare opportunity to discover how the National Trust is using traditional conservation techniques to save this unique part of Winchester’s heritage for future generations.

“The conservators will preserve as much of the building’s historic fabric as possible, whilst grafting on a new oak supporting structure to take the weight of the building.”

Throughout the work, the mill’s shop and South Downs Gateway information area will also be fully open.