A mammoth series of events held as Ashbourne remembers the outbreak of the First World War has begun. Gareth Butterfield reports.
ASHBOURNE embarked on a period of remembrance on Saturday.
A century ago the nation was on the brink of descending into one of the most horrific conflicts in history and a small team has been working hard to ensure the effects on our small community will never be forgotten.
Throughout this week, residents and visitors to Ashbourne will be invited to relive the sights and sounds of the town as it was before and during the Great War.
The project is part of a national commemoration of the events leading up to the First World War and hundreds of people have taken part in the first stages of what will be 10 days of educational, informative and fun events for people of all ages.
On Saturday, exhibitions dotted around the town opened their doors for the first time to showcase information, artefacts and memorabilia gathered over many months by the team leading the commemoration events.
Families of soldiers who survived the war, and relatives of those who were not so fortunate have been gathered in one place for the first time, providing a unique opportunity to relive and remember the impact of the events that started in 1914.
In Ashbourne Town Hall, historian Trilby Shaw has gathered a huge collection of memorabilia including weapons, uniforms, stories, photographs, medals and even death pennies as part of a free exhibition, open all this week.
Featured in the display are examples of work carried out by pupils at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, including decorated ties and a scale model of trenches depicting the German and English sides with "no mans' land" between them.
This will be open each day this week from 10.30am until 4pm.
At Century Hall, in Station Road, committee member Caroline Cooper has arranged for a detailed recreation of a Red Cross WW1 hospital.
The Methodist Church building was used during the war as a hospital and pictures from the time have been used to recreate it in immaculate detail.
Even the actual beds used in the former hospital, which have been stored in the hall's cellar, are being used.
Visitors can call into the free exhibition from 10.30am until 2.30pm each day this week.
In Church Street, Ashbourne's Heritage Centre has been taken over by First World War information, memorabilia and pictures to focus on the roles of women in the war.
The Heritage Centre will open every day from 11am until 4pm.
Tickets are available from the Town Hall or the Visitor Information Centre.
Friday will see another chance to relive the atmosphere of pre-war Ashbourne with an old-time music hall event taking place in the Empire Ballroom from 7.30pm. Tickets are available from the Visitor Information Centre.
On Sunday, the day the nation marks 100 years since war was declared on Germany in 1914, Derbyshire Dales MP Patrick McLoughlin will read out a declaration as it would have been conveyed in 1914 from the Town Hall Balcony at 2.15pm. He will be joined by East Midlands MEP Andrew Lewer.
Meanwhile, the market square will be transformed into a vibrant 1914 market with stalls offering goods from the period.
A procession will follow the declaration to St Oswald's Church where, at 3pm, a service will be held followed by the laying of a specially-commissioned wreath at the memorial gates in Park Road.
A genuine 1914 scouts bugle has been brought out of a bank vault and will be used to play the Last Post at both services.
Marking the day of declaration and rounding off the commemoration events on Monday, a candlelit vigil will take place in the Memorial Gardens from 9.30pm until 11pm.
During the ceremony, the names of the 111 Ashbourne soldiers who died in the war will be read out and, as each name is read, a candle will be blown out.
Also on Monday, the whole country is being encouraged to turn off their lights between 10pm and 11pm as part of a national act of remembrance.