Excitement at important new Paston family find - and a chance to see it this weekend

A watercolour engraving of the old Paston Hall , found in a private archive in Norfolk. It is the fr

A watercolour engraving of the old Paston Hall , found in a private archive in Norfolk. It is the frontispiece for the very rare volume V of the Paston Letters, published in 1826. Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

A chance find in old archive material is helping historians to locate the exact site of the famous Paston family's medieval home in the village which bears their name.

Lucy Care (left) and Diana George, from Paston Heritage Society, at a previous event.Picture: James

Lucy Care (left) and Diana George, from Paston Heritage Society, at a previous event.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011

The coloured engraving by Josiah Boydell, dating from 1790, came to light three weeks ago in a private Norfolk archive, according to Lucy Care, trustee of the Paston Heritage Society.

The society promotes research into, and greater awareness of, Norfolk gentry family the Pastons whose letters to each other are the earliest-known domestic correspondence in England and throw a unique light on life around the time of the War of the Roses, and beyond.

The engraving, which is the frontispiece to the rare volume V of the Paston Letters, shows the ruins of the old Paston Hall, in the village, near North Walsham, with Paston Church and the Great Barn clearly shown in the background.

'That means we can work out where it was sited. We are all very excited. We didn't know that the picture existed,' said Mrs Care.


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Until now, historians had only been able to work from a written description of the ruins, in Blomefield's early 19th-century History of Norfolk.

Based on the engraving, experts think the old hall stood in the kitchen garden of the present 18th-century Paston Hall whose owners, Steve and Ros Clarke, have allowed an exploratory trench to be dug ahead of a geophysical survey which it is hoped will be carried out in the next couple of months.

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Mr and Mrs Clarke have also discovered engraved stone in their wood which is believed to have come from the old hall, built by William and Agnes Paston in the early 15th century.

Members of the public will be able to view the trench and the engraved stone at a Paston Heritage Society event this Saturday, April 27, from 11am to 5pm, based at Paston Church.

The event celebrates a £10,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant which the society will use to connect the past with the present.

Part of the cash will fund work to discover more about the hall and create a 3D DVD of the building, together with the barn and church.

Other activities will include re-enactments bringing to life Paston letters and poems related to them, and an exhibition of photographs from the late Eric Reading's collection.

Organisers are also hoping to collect oral memories from people to create a complete picture of Paston's story, old and new.

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