CULTURE vultures have flocked to museums and art galleries in England following the introduction of free admission.
New figures say visits have risen by nearly 11m since the Government introduced a free admissions policy in December, 2001.
There were 5.3m extra visitors in the first year and an extra 5.6m last year.
Locally, visits to museums which used to charge - such as the National Coal Mining Museum, near Grange Moor - have also soared.
Between 2001 to 2002 the museum had 60,000 visitors.
But following the introduction of free admission the figure for 2002 to 2003 rose to 107,000, a 76% increase. This rise has continued, with figures for 2003 to 2004 up an further 11% to 120,000.
A spokesman from the museum, the former Caphouse Colliery, said the rise had been a tremendous vindication of the free admission policy.
He said a £6.5m refurbishment at the museum also boosted visitor numbers.
All Kirklees Council-run museums, including the Tolson Museum at Moldgreen, have been free for many years.
The only exception is Oakwell Hall at Birstall, a Grade 1 listed building where charges apply between March and October.
Adults pay £1.40 and children 50p ( £3 for families).
A spokesman for Kirklees Council's Community History Service said Oakwell Hall was open all year and free from November to February.
But he said charges were applied during the summer season for conservation reasons and to raise much needed cash for the service.