VISITOR numbers at a military museum have jumped by more than half since it was given a £3.5m revamp.
A total of 20,128 people passed through the doors of Fort Nelson, on Portsdown Hill near Fareham, during April, May and June.
This compares with 13,092 in the same period last year – a leap of 54 per cent.
The boost follows last year’s refurbishment, which was unveiled to the public last August.
Improvements included a huge glass-sided Voice of the Guns gallery, housing 14 of the most iconic exhibits in the national collection of artillery and historic cannon.
Other highlights include a state-of-the-art education centre, social history galleries and new interactive displays, purpose-built visitor centre, and Café 1871.
Fort operations manager Nigel Hosier said: ‘The figures are a huge boost for the local area, and testimony to all our staff’s hard work.
‘Museum admission and parking are free, which allows everyone to have unlimited access to their national heritage in a time of recession.
‘We are now entering our busiest time of year, with a full programme of summer events and activities, including a Military Tattoo on September 8.
‘These will help maintain the excellent upward trend for visitor figures.’
Cllr Robert Humby, who is in charge of economic development and tourism for Winchester City Council, said: ‘When the Royal Armouries at Fort Nelson secured a Heritage Lottery Fund £2m grant to transform the impressive Victorian fort into a state-of-the-art visitor attraction, we were delighted.
‘The relaunched attraction now showcases the fort to its full potential, with new interactive exhibits.
‘To hear that visitors are flocking to the fort in such numbers is good news for tourism locally.’
Cllr Humby hopes the museum’s visitors will prove a boost for the rest of the area.
He added: ‘In particular we are hoping that there will be knock-on effects in local market towns such as Wickham and Bishop’s Waltham, both of which provide pocket guides with Winchester City Council’s support, outlining their strong links to the impressive naval heritage of the area. Winchester City Council has worked closely with Fort Nelson for many years and we’d like to extend our congratulations to the dedicated team there who worked so hard to make this happen.’