Leisure: TV saga fuels surge in tourism

The television blockbuster Pride and Prejudice is still helping draw the crowds to historic houses, it was disclosed today.

Two homes used in BBC1's filming of the classic Jane Austen novel saw big leaps in visitor numbers last year, said the English Tourist Board.

Lyme Park in Disley, Cheshire, which "doubled" as Mr Darcy's palatial Pemberley estate - had a 42 per cent increase in visitors in 1996, compared with the 1995 total. And Sudbury Hall in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, used for internal shots of Pemberley, did even better; visitor numbers soared 59 per cent. In addition, 1996 saw a 39 per cent increase in visitors to Saltram in Plympton near Plymouth, which featured in the film version of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, featuring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslett."With Pride and Prejudice being shown again this year on television, we're hoping visitor numbers will rise again in 1997," said an English Tourist Board spokeswoman.

The figures were part of a an overall ETB survey which showed that visits to English historic properties in 1996 rose 2 per cent to 70.4 million. These visitors spent pounds 231m - an 8 per cent increase on 1995's figure. Sixteen properties had 20 per cent increases in visitor levels in 1996 and nearly 60 attracted more than 200,000. Of those charging admission (see table), the Tower of London was the most popular.