The Athelstan Museum in Malmesbury has welcomed its 50,000th visitor since a team of volunteers took it over in April 2006.

The Friends of Athelstan Museum restored the fortunes of the struggling attraction, securing new funding and reaching the national final of the Museums and Heritage Awards for Excellence.

Friends chairman Roger Griffin said the path to success had been far from easy.

He said: “It is difficult to separate all the high points.

“We turned around a museum that was a laughing stock, which had only 1,500 people the previous year, into a museum we’re all proud of.

“We had a very difficult time to start with. There was a lot of hassle over the terms of the lease and we had to move into temporary accommodation at one point. But people supported us and we got through it.”

On Tuesday David Sheppard, from Malmesbury, became the 50,000th visitor and was awarded a bottle of wine from a vineyard in Garsdon.

Mr Griffin said: “David hadn’t been to the museum for some time but was impressed. He said he’d bring his family back for a visit.”

The chairman praised the volunteers who run the whole operation. He said: “It’s all done by volunteers, not just the smiling people on reception but everyone behind the scenes as well.”

As well as regularly changing exhibitions and half term events and talks, the museum is using a Wiltshire Council grant to link up with schools and groups in the area. Mr Griffin said: “The future is still uncertain, by definition, but we know what we’ve got and we’re moving forward."