ONE OF Hampshire's most historic buildings has received the royal seal of approval after being given a £2 million facelift.

The Duke of Gloucester made a return visit to the Grade II listed Eling Tide Mill to inspect the new-look facilities.

He toured the 230-year-old building after receiving a rapturous welcome from scores of Totton schoolchildren lining the streets.

The 73-year-old duke was shown the restored mill machinery and water wheels.

During a tour of a new interactive exhibition in the refurbished visitor centre he viewed a 5,000-year-old Early Neolithic axe head and a 3,000-year-old Bronze Age rapier blade.

He also met Francesca Nichols, 16, one of several pupils at nearby Hounsdown School who contributed ideas to the development of the exhibition.

The duke ended his 45-minute visit by unveiling a plaque in the activity room.

VIPs present at the ceremony included the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson, and the High Sheriff of Hampshire Mark Thistlethwayte.

The Eling Tide Mill Experience comprises the mill, the visitor centre and open spaces around Bartley Water and Goatee Beach.

The improvements were largely financed by a £1.7 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. New Forest District Council, which owns the mill, also contributed to the cost along with Totton and Eling Town Council, which runs the attraction.

The 18th century building is one of only a handful tide mills in the world that are still producing flour on a regular basis.

Cllr Di Brooks, chairman of the town council's amenities committee, said: "It's a fascinating visitor attraction.

"It's easily accessible from the New Forest, Southampton and beyond, and I am sure it will attract visitors from far and wide.”

It was the duke's second visit to the mill.

In 1990 he toured the attraction to mark the tenth anniversary of the completion of an earlier restoration project.