Cogges Farm Museum in Witney has revealed it managed to attract 27 per cent more visitors during the summer.

Final figures for the 2008 season have just been released by the owners, Oxfordshire County Council, along with some plans for next year.

The total number of visitors was 32,331, including a jackpot turn-out of 867 people for the very last attraction, the Advent Weekend, on December 6 and 7, with a Nativity play, Christmas crafts and food. That compares to an average of 25,000 through the gates in recent years, a downturn which was costing the council £250,000 a year in running losses, and prompting a crisis over the museum’s future.

Martyn Brown, county heritage and arts officer, praised staff and volunteers for their efforts in boosting attendance in the uncertain backdrop.

A significant factor was the decision to reduce the price of season tickets, which brought in more revenue, as well as more visits. Mr Brown added: “This was very well done and thank you everyone for visiting. Please come back next year.”

The 2008 season will be shorter, as the county reduces its budget for Cogges, starting in time for Easter, on April 7, but finishing earlier, at the end of August.

Among the attractions being planned are a food weekend, on April 18 and 19, for local growers and producers, a beer festival, in July and an outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. In May, museum staff are planning to tie in with the county museums’ and galleries’ theme of “A Night in the Museum”, with an evening of ghost stories.

Mr Brown added that traditional favourites, like “pig pampering”, mini beasts, digs and discovery, and craft weekends, should also be continued.

Throughout the past year, the future management of the museum was left to a special project board, which received three bids, two from commercial operators and one from the local Cogges Community Enterprise Group.

Last month, the council decided that it would retain ownership, but set up a new trust. A draft constitution is being drawn up.

The county, though, continues to run the museum next season, while planning to hand over management to the new trust, using ideas from the Cogges Community Enterprise Group, from 2010, while scaling down its financial commitment.