Diana memorial hotline jammed

Click to follow
The Althorp Estate in Northamptonshire, the final resting place of Diana, Princess of Wales, is set to become one of the most popular summer destinations for day-trippers.

Yesterday, the hotline for tickets opened and almost immediately became jammed. Perhaps after September they should have known. But yesterday staff at Althorp said even they could not have predicted quite the degree of public interest in visiting the family estate where Diana is buried.

From the moment the telephone lines opened at 9am, the operators - around 200 of them - were besieged by a deluge of calls from people wanting to visit the grounds and the converted stable block that will house an exhibition to the princess's life. At times yesterday morning, callers were met by a BT message announcing that lines were too busy. By late yesterday evening, staff were dealing with more than 500 inquiries an hour and had sold 10,000 tickets.

"This was entirely unprecedented so we just did not know what to expect," said an estate spokeswoman."We always knew it was going to be busy but we were never sure just how busy. We have been receiving calls from all over, from America, Germany, and Holland. There has been great interest."

Before yesterday, staff at Althorp had taken steps to try and cope with demand from would-be visitors. Tickets are being limited to six per person and only visitors who have obtained tickets in advance will be permitted entry. The 24-hour hotline will remain open to until the end of August.

One aspect that might put some people off is the cost of the tickets. At pounds 9.50 for adults, pounds 7 for senior citizens and pounds 5 for children, a trip to Althorp will not be the cheapest of days out.