A HISTORIC tourist attraction looks set to close to the public after council chiefs announced cuts and job losses within the museum service.

The nationally important Rockbourne Roman Villa and Museum near Fordingbridge has now closed for the winter after being open daily throughout the summer and attracting |thousands of visitors.

But the villa – the largest known villa in the area with its |history spanning from the Iron Age to the 5th century AD – will most likely not re-open as usual in the spring.

Rockbourne Roman Villa had been funded by Renaissance |funding from the government.

But Renaissance has been hit by the Comprehensive Spending Review and, expecting large cuts, Hampshire county council, which administers the funding, has announced it will stop funding the villa on March 31.

The closure will result in the loss of at least three jobs.

As a result, a reorganisation of the villa’s opening is being discussed and it looks likely that it will only open for schools by appointment.

Any changes will take effect by April 1.

Some people are understood to be pushing for the villa to open on certain days to the general public, as a halfway house idea.

But with job cuts predicted due to the decrease in funding, the museum would only open if it recruited more volunteers.

The county council is now proposing a Partnership Management Model in a bid to get the attraction run by volunteers.

The authority wants to adopt this approach at four attractions – Curtis Museum and Allen Gallery in Alton, Bursledon Windmill in Eastleigh and Rockbourne Roman Villa.

A spokesman for the council said the Museum Service’s venues receive nearly half a million visits.

Executive member for culture and recreation Margaret Snaith-Tempia said: “The reorganisation will see major alternations made to the service to ensure it can continue to reach as wide an audience as possible in the face of significant changes in Government funding in the next financial year.”

She added: “Partnership working and closer links with communities are being given greater focus in the future running of the service to avoid us having to go down a potential closure route.”

The council is still talking to local authorities and organisations which have close links to each venue, to secure the best possible outcome for Hampshire’s residents and tourists.

Rockbourne Roman Villa was open to the public daily from April to September, giving casual visitors the chance to walk around the remains of the villa and visit the museum, which displayed what life was like for the Roman Britons who lived there more than 1,600 years ago.

The villa includes bath houses, living quarters, farm buildings and workshops. Visitors could also see the best mosaics, part of the underfloor heating system and the outline of the villa’s 40 rooms.

For more information about the Museum and Arts Service Reorganisation visit http://www3.hants.gov.uk/museum/about-museumservice/museum-service-news.htm