Gareth Butterfield reports on Ashbourne's WW1 commemorations.
A BELL rang from a balcony over a bustling market square and silence fell.
In a moving re-enactment of the address given by King George V from Buckingham Palace, Derbyshire Dales MP Patrick McLoughlin read out the same declaration of war that was read to the British public a century ago.
Dozens gathered in Ashbourne Market Place to watch the event, part of the town's 10-day commemoration of the events leading up to the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914.
The cobbled market square had been taken over by a vintage market for the day, with stalls offering antiques, cream teas and ice creams and live music from the period playing alongside an exhibition of WW1 memorabilia.
Introduced by Ashbourne town crier Bill Hall, Mr McLoughlin, the Government's Secretary of State for Transport, was joined on the balcony by Derbyshire county councillor and East Midlands MEP Andrew Lewer, along with chairman of the Ashbourne branch of the Royal British Legion Tony Millward.
Following the declaration, the group joined a parade which had been formed up in front of the town hall that marched, behind Ashbourne Town Band, to St Oswald's Church for a special service.
Hundreds attended the service, including town councillors, ex-servicemen, serving members of the 2nd Battalion Mercian Regiment and members of the Ashbourne Royal British Legion.
Following the service wreaths were laid at Ashbourne's Memorial Gates to remember the town's 122 soldiers who died during the war.
Mr McLoughlin said: ''I'm pleased to be here today and I think it's right that we commemorate and remember the people who lost their lives in the war like this.
''It's an important and fitting tribute and I'm pleased Ashbourne has done so much to mark the occasion.''
The town has been holding events since last Saturday, when exhibitions opened and, on the following Sunday, a party in the park was held to illustrate life before the outbreak of the war.
Talks, exhibitions, a fashion show and a recreation of a war-time hospital were all organised by a small group of people who received lottery funding and have worked for more than 18 months to ensure the four years of national commemorations due to start this week leave a legacy for the town.
On Monday, as the nation marked the official centenary of the start of the war at 11pm by switching off lights in their houses and lighting candles, around 200 people gathered at the Memorial Gates for a special service, and 135 candles were lit to be blown out as names of fallen soldiers were read.
Commenting on the success of the town's commemoration events, which have been running since last week, organiser Trilby Shaw said: "It's been wonderful, absolutely wonderful.
"I'm thrilled to bits with how well everything has gone.
"When we were talking about it a few days before, we didn't know how it was going to work or whether we could take the public with us through the week but everything was successful and everything went as planned.
"We're really happy everything has gone so well, we'd like to thank everyone who has helped us along the way and we think the people of Ashbourne should be proud of themselves."
Caroline Cooper who, along with her daughter Rachel Cooper, complete the original team asked by Ashbourne Royal British Legion to devise commemoration events for the town, said she was thrilled with how well the events went.
She said: "It's fair to say it's exceeded our expectations.
"It has been a lot of hard work and everything hasn't always gone to plan, but we've had a lot of help and the town has turned out to support everything, so we're really pleased."