MAJOR improvements to a Hampshire museum received the royal seal of approval today.

The new-look St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery in New Street, Lymington, was officially opened by the Earl of Wessex, a long-standing supporter of the arts.

The 53-year-old royal was given a tour of the former school before unveiling a plaque and signing the visitors' book.

St Barbe re-opened a few weeks ago following a £2.3m raft of improvements that included better galleries, a new cafe and a "wavy wall" facade that has transformed the building's appearance.

The Earl spent less than an hour at the museum before leaving for an engagement on the Isle of Wight.

During his visit he chatted to staff, met some of the museum's longest serving volunteers and was shown a scrapbook full of articles about the Queen.

He said: "I didn't see St Barbe before the transformation but everyone tells me it has made a fantastic difference."

The Earl also referred to frequent visits to the Royal Lymington Yacht Club by the Princess Royal, a keen sailor.

He said: "It's a great pleasure to get to Lymington. Before the only person I knew who comes here is my sister. It will be quiet nice to get my name somewhere in the town."