A RECORD number of people visited the museum dedicated to the North-East’s industrial heritage.

The award-winning Beamish Museum, near Chester-le-Street, attracted 589,474 visitors, from the region and beyond.

The number is 19 per cent higher than last year.

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The next highest total in Beamish’s 43-year was in 1991, the year of the Gateshead Garden Festival, when 520,000 people visitrd.

Visitor numbers have almost doubled in the five years since the museum introduced a ticket giving 12 months unlimited admission for the price of a day ticket. More than £4 million has been invested in new attractions, including a 1940s farm opening this half term, and more than 100 new jobs have been created.

Museum director Richard Evans said: “This upturn in numbers, revenue and employment is great news not just for the people who love and work for Beamish - it is a real boost for our region’s economy. “More than half of our visitors come from outside the North- East on holiday. They visit other attractions across the region and stay overnight in our hotels, guest houses and campsites.”

Money brought in by the bumper year will be spent on new attractions opening over the next two years. including a medieval church set in the 1820s and a chemist/photographers’ studio set in the 1900s.