TWO free-to-enter attractions in Winchester are set to start charging admission fees.

City Museum and the Westgate, both operated by Hampshire Cultural Trust, will introduce a ticketing system from March 31.

The trust plans to use the additional money to fund staffing and to put on a programme of events reflecting the city’s heritage, including period music, family activities and re-enactments.

CEO Paul Sapwell, who has been in his post since 2018, told the Chronicle: “I’d be a liar if I told you that I wasn’t expecting a decrease in visitor numbers, but I don’t think there will be enormous consequences.

“We expect a short term drop, similar to what happened when the Great Hall started charging. But that has built its numbers back up since and I’m confident it will happen in this case.

“This is a programme that we feel we must put on – something valuable and unique to the city – but we can’t do that on the funds we have now. Very few city attractions are still free.”

An adult ticket to the City Museum will cost £5, and £3 for the Westgate. Concessions will be available for children and family tickets are to be offered. Under fives go free at both.

Each ticket will be valid for 12 months and the holder will be able to use it as many times as they please.

“We’ve had a £3 suggested donation in place for a while but we can’t provide quality to our best potential through donations alone,” added Mr Sapwell.

“Around £150,000 has been invested into the City Museum over the last two years and it is undoubtedly better now. It’s not like for like, so the admission price will not be like for like.

“What I can promise is that people will be paying for good value. A huge percentage of visitors to the City Museum are tourists and they will be expecting to pay to get into attractions, anyway.”

Mr Sapwell was unaware whether the two museums have charged entry fees in the past. It is believed charging was tried and then dropped at the City Museum after visitor numbers dropped.

City Museum features dozens of displays, models and hands on activities about Winchester’s past, including sections dedicated to Jane Austen and King Alfred the Great. The Westgate used to be a debtors prison.