THOUSANDS of people flocked to Highclere Castle – the iconic home of hit ITV programme Downton Abbey – to enjoy a weekend of World War One commemoration events.
Last Saturday, music lovers attended the 14th annual Battle Proms open air picnic at the historic venue with classical music such as Jupiter by Holst and Beethoven’s Battle Symphony featuring among the play list.
The audience also let rip with their voices during a traditional sing-along which featured crowd favourites including Jerusalem, Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory.
In addition to the musical entertainment on offer, an expert cavalry troop performed a mounted skill-at-arm display to mark the centenary of the First World War, and a fireworks display rounded off the evening.
The event raised £7,755 for Combat Stress, a veteran’s mental health charity which helps veterans of the armed forces who have suffered psychological injuries.
Then on Sunday, crowds flocked to the castle for the Heroes at Highclere event which commemorated the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
The X Factor winner Alexandra Burke was the star attraction on the main stage as she performed a selection of her hits and Basingstoke singer Luke Upton also entertained the crowds.
Visitors to the event were wowed by air displays from the Red Devils, a Spitfire, and a 1944 Mustang plane, and also had the chance to ride in a hot air balloon and have a close look at Lynx and Apache helicopters. A selection of vintage cars also attracted plenty of attention.
To mark the centenary of the start of the four-year conflict, a charity football match took place between a British All Stars team and a Bayer Leverkusen All Stars team – emulating the match played between British and German soldiers on Christmas Eve, 1914, Mother-of-two Stephanie Webb was one of the thousands who attended the event.
The 46-year-old, who lives in Winchester Street, Overton, told The Gazette: “It was a fantastic event and we had a thoroughly enjoyable time.
“We didn’t see everything we wanted to because there was so much to do. The weather was brilliant and we had Champagne on the lawn, so we couldn’t have asked for a better day.”
Money raised at the event will be donated to the Royal British Legion, ABF The Soldiers Charity, Combat Stress, Oxfam, and other small charities.