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Tuesday, January 6, 1998 Published at 15:03 GMT


10,000 a minute call Diana hotline
image: [ Demand for tickets has come from all over the world ]
Demand for tickets has come from all over the world

The telephone lines selling tickets to see Diana's island grave at Althorp received an estimated 10,000 calls a minute on Monday.

More than 200 telephone operators were working to cope with the huge demand for tickets to visit her family's estate in central England, Althorp Park, where she is buried on an island at the centre of an ornamental lake.

But organisers say that they hope that they will be able to deal with the mass of phone calls to Althorp.

British Telecom said the demand, though huge, was probably less than a phone-in line for a big television show or on a line set up following a major disaster.

The tickets, costing £9.50 (around $15) for adults and £5 ($8) for children, are compulsory for all visitors.

The park, which is 120 km north-west of London, will be open to ticket-holders from July 1 - the Princess's birthday - until August 30, the eve of the first anniversary of her death.

The Earl Spencer, Diana's brother, who made the visiting arrangements, believes pre-paid tickets are the only way to control the flood of expected pilgrims to the site.

He has expressed concern that touts will try to profit by buying blocks of tickets.

But he says he has devised a scheme which he hopes will prevent tickets falling into the hands of profiteers.

[ image: Althorp House in Northamptonshire]
Althorp House in Northamptonshire
On open days, the visitors will be allowed to view the island but will not be allowed to set foot on the island where the princess is buried. They are expected to be able to walk around the lake and visit a museum in the grounds chronicling Diana's life.

The nearby church of Mary the Virgin, Great Brington, has attracted around 1,000 visitors a week since Diana's death on August 31 last year.

Althorp has been open to the public in the past, attracting about 10,000 visitors a year.

The seasonal visiting arrangements for people who wish to see the island grave at Althorp have been welcomed by local villagers.

The Reverend David MacPherson, of St Mary's in nearby Great Brington, said his parishioners had reacted with good will to the idea that the grave site would only be open for two months of the year.

He said: "There is a general feeling that the way things are being organised are of benefit to the estate and the local community. The comments I have heard have been that it is a good idea to sell tickets."

Villagers had been wary of the prospect of huge numbers of visitors throughout the year.


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  Internet Links

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