A RECORD number of people visited the National Coal Mining Museum during the past year.

The attraction near Grange Moor welcomed over 135,000 people through its doors, breaking its previous record with an increase of 4.5% visitors.

The figures top what has been the most successful year to date for the museum, which offers visitors the chance to take a trip 140 metres down the mine.

It scooped the prestigious White Rose Award for Tourism Attraction of the Year – for an attraction with 50,000 visitors and over – and the Business of the Year award at the first Wakefield District Business Awards.

The museum has also received rave reviews from its visitors, with 99% saying they would recommend the museum to others and 98% saying they would visit again.

The fact that the museum has plenty of attractions to keep the whole family entertained is also reflected in the increase it has seen in the average time visitors spend there. More than 70% spend at least three hours exploring the site.

Visitors have been able to gain free admission to the museum for the past six years and visitor numbers have more than doubled since the new policy.

The museum had a record number of visitors in the year 2006/2007, with 129,200 coming through its doors, but has now beaten that high record with its latest visitor figures.

Visitor figures have increased across the board, breaking previous records in three key areas, with 110,000 general visitors, 16,700 educational visitors and 10,000 people taking advantage of the museum’s unique conference facilities.

Total overall visitors for the year 2007/2008 was 135,229.

Staff at the museum hope that it will continue to build on its success and see further increases in its visitor numbers over the coming months. They are also confident that the upcoming celebrations to mark the museum’s 20th anniversary will attract a huge number of visitors.

Richard Saward, the museum’s commercial director, said: “This is an amazing achievement as it’s now six years since we introduced free admission and we had thought that the numbers would plateau by now.

“The 2007/08 visitor figures and awards are a credit to all our staff and their hard work and dedication.”

The museum’s 20th anniversary celebrations will centre around June, with both free and paid for events taking place there.

Events will include the fourth annual Miners’ Gala on June 8 and an outdoor performance of Brassed Off on June 14 by Wakefield Little Theatre.

The museum, at Caphouse Colliery on New Road, is open daily from 10am to 5pm. For more information visit the website www.ncm.org.uk