CLIFFE Castle was the most popular Bradford Council-run museum in the past year, it has been revealed.

The Spring Gardens Lane attraction drew 72,812 visitors in 2017-18, up from 53,289 the previous year.

Figures show that attendances at museums and galleries district-wide also rose – from 212,000 to 229,000.

The increase has come despite austerity-driven cuts to the museums and library services budget in recent years.

Michael Scarborough, chairman of the Friends of Cliffe Castle, welcomes the increase in visitors to the site.

“I’m very pleased for the museum and for Keighley,” he said.

“I believe one of the key reasons for its success is that it appeals to people right across the age spectrum, from youngsters to the elderly. It offers something for everyone.

“A lot of improvements have been carried out to the museum and the park, which have been supported by the Friends.

“Looking to the future, with the excellent work that has been done, there’s every reason to be optimistic that visitor numbers will continue to rise.”

Elsewhere in the district, the opening of the David Hockney Gallery last summer saw a 30 per cent rise in visitors to Cartwright Hall at Manningham – 62,826 last year, up from 47,839.

Bolling Hall’s visitor numbers rose from 23,279 to 24,015.

Bradford Industrial Museum was the only one to see a drop in visitors – 58,438 in 2017-18 compared to 59,961 in 2016-17.

A report to the council’s regeneration and environment scrutiny committee showed that in addition to the success of district museums, many libraries were thriving after transferring to community control.

But the document warns that more cuts are expected in the coming years, which may impact on opening times and the scope of exhibitions at museums.

And it adds: “Site operational and public opening times have been reviewed and amended where possible.

“Further reductions in opening times cannot be ruled out due to low levels of front-of-house staffing.”

The libraries budget has shrunk year-on-year since 2011.

Latterly it has dropped from £3,958,000 to £3,100,000, and further savings of £905,000 are planned next year.

There are currently ten libraries managed by the council, 17 that are community-run and two which are ‘hybrid’ – manned by both volunteers and paid council staff.

The museums budget has been cut from £ 3,023,300 in 2014-15 to £1,871,900 in 2018-19. Further cuts of £260,000 are planned in 2019-20.