Paston history group reflects on successful project

Paston Heritage Society, Josephine Marston, dressed as a wise woman, a distiller of herbals, at the

Paston Heritage Society, Josephine Marston, dressed as a wise woman, a distiller of herbals, at the exhibition launch at the Norfolk Records Office. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2013

Members and friends of the Paston Heritage Society met at Bacton to review and celebrate their work to improve knowledge and better access to the famed Paston Letters.

The organisation was one of 16 groups across the eastern region taking part in a year-long project to unearth new aspects of the fascinating histories of communities across Norfolk and Suffolk.

The venture was co-ordinated by the University of East Anglia and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) All Our Stories scheme, which enabled small community groups and history societies to access grants of between £3,000 and £10,000 to add a new dimension to local history.

The Paston Heritage Society used funding to help take the Paston Letters to a wider audience. The collection consists of the correspondence of members of the Paston family of Norfolk gentry and others connected with them in England between the 1422 and 1509.

Members staged re-enactments, encouraged inclusion in school learning to use the letters as a resource, produced a booklet on Paston sites and a held symposium at Dragon Hall in Norwich focusing on the more academic elements of the Paston Letters.

The group also worked with Norfolk Record Office after it acquired a Paston Letter, which forms the focus of an exhibition running until January 25.

It was written by Sir John Fastolf to John Paston asking him to pursue the prior and convent of Norwich, who were behind with their rent for land of the manor of Hellesdon.

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Paston Heritage Society chairman Rob Knee reviewed how the society successfully deployed ground-penetrating radar to attempt to discover the outer walls of the ruins of the original Paston Hall.

Dr Sarah Spooner, lecturer in landscape history in the School of History at the UEA, who led the project, said it had achieved partnerships and strong links with people in the community who were interested in their history and heritage.

She added: 'Lots of these projects, including that of the Paston Heritage Society, would not have happened without the Heritage Lottery Funding.

'There is a real diversity to the groups and all have done different things but at the basic level they have all added something new to our knowledge of East Anglia.'