Visit England recently released their annual list of England's most visited tourist attractions, which is always a fascinating barrel-load of data. Where's popular, who's getting busier, who's losing out? A few caveats. It's too early to have statistics for 2012, this data is for 2011. The figures come from a questionnaire, and the numbers aren't checked. The survey these numbers come from has a response rate of only 27%. The list is unverified and incomplete. There's no London Eye, for example, no Madame Tussaud's, no Buckingham Palace. And several attractions took part last year but not this - for example the Whitechapel Gallery and London Transport Museum no longer appear. But it's still very interesting to see roughly who's getting how many visitors, so I've rejigged all the statistics into the grouped list below. The list is complete down to 50,000, but I've omitted some attractions below that. In each category, the attractions appear in descending order. I've used arrows for attractions switching category or with a greater than 10% change. I've used two arrows where the change is 30% or more.
Visitor attractions, London - number of visitors, 2011
Over 5 million visitors: British Museum, ↑National Gallery 2-5 million: Natural History Museum, ↓Tate Modern, Science Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, Tower of London 1-2 million: ↑Westminster Abbey, National Portrait Gallery, St Paul's Cathedral, ↑Old Royal Naval College, ↓Tate Britain, British Library, Kew Gardens, London Zoo, ↑Houses of Parliament
500,000-1 million: ↓Imperial War Museum, ↓↓Royal Observatory Greenwich, National Maritime Museum, Hampton Court, ↓Horniman Museum and Gardens 200,000-500,000: Tower Bridge Exhibition, Museum of London, ↑Museum of Childhood, Cabinet War Rooms, RAF Museum, Army Museum, HMS Belfast, Monument, ↓Kensington Palace 100,000-200,000: ↑Museum in Docklands, Southwark Cathedral, ↑Stamford Bridge Tour, Kenwood House, ↑Ham House, Geffrye Museum
5000-10000: Richmond Museum, ↑↑Kelmscott House, Carlyle's House 1000-5000: ↑Barnet Museum, St Bartholomew's Museum, Twickenham Museum, ↓↓Marble Hill House, ↑College of Arms, Wimbledon Museum less than 1000: ↑Roman Bath, Little Holland House, ↓↓Rainham Hall, ↑↑Kneller Hall, ↓Carew Manor, ↓Carshalton House
The British Museum retains its place at the top of the pile, while the Tate Modern is replaced at number two by the National Gallery. The Tower of London is the most popular paid-for attraction on the list. Westminster Abbey's popularity was no doubt boosted by 2011's Royal Wedding. The Royal Observatory in Greenwich lost 44% of its visitors by choosing to charge an entrance fee, whereas the Museum of Docklands gained 22% by going free.
But yes, surely it's the bottom of the list that's most fascinating. Six London attractions attracted less than a thousand visitors last year, with one not even managing to hit a hundred. Only 32 souls visited Carshalton House, but then it did only open once (over the late May bank holiday). Two of the others are also in the London borough of Sutton, that's Little Holland House (open this weekend) and Carew Manor (opens four times a year). The Roman Bath is a tiny room round the back of Aldwych station, open only by appointment. Kneller Hall is home to the museum of the Royal Military School of Music, but only opens before concerts and you've missed all those this year. And Rainham Hall in Havering is the National Trust's least visited London property, although I'm one of the 724 who went along last year and I thought it was lovely.
If you fancy digging around in the data there's a spreadsheet to download, and then you can explore figures across the whole of England. The top attraction outside London is Flamingo Land Theme Park and Zoo, honest, which nips in at number 14. Merseyside Maritime Museum turns out to be more popular than the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Cadbury World is more popular than Hampton Court Palace. Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe in Melton Mowbray is more popular than the Museum in Docklands. And at the very bottom of the heap is Stokescroft, supposedly a historic house in Gloucestershire, which managed only five visitors in 2011. Given that I can find no evidence on the internet that this building even exists, perhaps that's not surprising. But go on, why not visit one of England's other fine attractions this weekend and help bump them up the 2012 rankings?