When Tate Modern opened in Millennium year, the public rushed to see its collection and for a while it seemed that the original Tate Gallery - founded by Sir Henry Tate, the sugar baron, as a national gallery of British art in 1897 - was in danger of being overshadowed by its glamorous new sibling.
Yesterday, however, Tate Britain was back in the limelight, celebrating the highest rise in visitor numbers among the country's leading tourist attractions. The total number of visitors that passed through the Millbank gallery was 1,733,120 - up 58 per cent in 12 months.
By contrast, almost all other leading attractions in London slumped after the 7 July bombings. The National Gallery had 15 per cent fewer visitors, the London Eye was down 12 per cent and the Tower of London by 9 per cent.
The falls came despite a record number of foreign visitors to the UK - almost 30 million in 2005, representing an increase of 8 per cent, and netting pounds 14bn, according to the national tourist organisation Visit Britain. However, attractions in London struggled in the summer months following 7 July, mostly because British families chose to stay away from the capital.
Despite the slump, Tate Britain succeeded in attracting the public and its success led to the Tate empire as a whole - overseen by Nicholas Serota - recording its second most successful year with 6.5 million visitors.
Tate Modern, sited in a former electricity generation plant in Southwark, still achieved most of the visitors - 3.9 million. However it was down 12 per cent on 2004, despite the popularity of a Frida Kahlo exhibition.
Attractions outside central London performed strongly by comparison, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. Kew Gardens (up 25 per cent) enjoyed a good 2005, while Portsmouth Historic Dockyard - home to Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory - thrived during celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.
However, Tate Britain, located in central London, leaped into the top 10 attractions in the country. The gallery attributed the 58 per cent leap to two factors - the blockbuster Turner Whistler Monet exhibition and a major re-hang of the gallery. The Turner Whistler Monet show, which set the work of the English landscape artist alongside those of two of his famous admirers, pulled in the highest attendance for an exhibition since Tate Britain opened in 2000 - 382,000.
The rehang in September showed some of the gallery's masterpieces in a new and flattering light. For instance, Romantic Painting in Britain in Room 9, the longest and highest room, dramatically displays Turner's pair War and Peace and John Martin's trilogy of works depicting hell, purgatory and heaven.
Tate insiders believe that the public has re-discovered the treasures of Tate Britain, which include the biggest collection of works by Turner and large collections of Pre-Raphaelite works. Indeed, it was partly because of the Turners that the Tate was created in the first place: Turner left his work to the nation with strict instructions as to how it should be hung, but the National Gallery, in Trafalgar Square, was unable to comply with these. It was only in 1910, when the Turner Wing was built, that they were brought out of storage.
"The opening of Tate Modern meant for a while that that people slightly forgot about Tate Britain," said Will Gompertz, director of media and communications. "It was a sort of secret in the art world, though not to us of course."
He enthused about the gallery's ability to put in context the history and development of British art since 1500. "It shows art over a 500-year continuum," he said. "You can be looking at Hogarth, Constable and Gainsborough and within a few steps you can be looking at Hirst, Hockney and Bacon. There's a breadth and depth there."
Tate has …