More than 16,000 head to Ipswich galleries - and Ed Sheeran's not here yet!
PUBLISHED: 07:30 05 August 2019 | UPDATED: 07:46 05 August 2019
A record number of visitors went to see Ipswich's museums and art galleries last month - and that figure comes before the Ed Sheeran exhibition open its doors at Christchurch Mansion.
Nearly 9,000 people visited Christchurch Mansion in July and a further 6,000 went to the Ipswich Museum. The High Street Art Gallery attracted a further 1,000 visitors.
The figures have given museum bosses a big boost as they brace themselves for an outbreak of Ed-mania when the next major exhibition opens at the Mansion.
The Ed Sheeran: Made in Suffolk exhibition opens on August 20 but the official visitor numbers for July show 8,865 people went to the Mansion in July alone, a 120% rise compared with the same period last year.
Ipswich Museum welcomed a further 6,300 visitors through the doors in High Street during July - again more than double the numbers in July 2018.
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They believe that the popularity of Elmer the Elephant - and there are a collection of them at the museums - has helped.
Manager James Steward said: "This is most encouraging and shows we can attract growing numbers of visitors even without the blockbuster exhibitions we host regularly.
"These mansion statistics, in particular, are most impressive, coming after the Rodin's The Kiss exhibition and a few weeks before the Ed Sheeran event opens."
More engagement with schools and youngsters at holiday workshops are also helping to keep Museum and Mansion among Suffolk's top attractions and thousands more have been visiting the Ipswich Art Gallery in High Street over the past six months - 1,165 during July alone during the Marvellous Machines exhibition.
Mr Steward added: "The total of more than 16,000 visits to our museums represents a record number of visits in a single month and that includes a high number of repeat visitors who are discovering that our museums are great places to spend time with friends and family.
"We also had the added attraction of our collection of Elmers."
Entry to all three museums is free - but when the Ed Sheeran exhibition opens in Christchurch Mansion's Wolsey Gallery, visitors will have to book a pre-timed ticket in advance in a bid to avoid long queues building up around Christchurch Park.