Photo gallery: Beautiful 16th century Oxnead Hall in north Norfolk opens its gates for Paston Heritage Society

The Paston Heritage Society celebrating its 21st anniversary at Oxnead Hall. Left to right, chairman

The Paston Heritage Society celebrating its 21st anniversary at Oxnead Hall. Left to right, chairman of the Paston Heritage Society Rob Knee and members Tim Lenton and Caroline Gilfillan.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Set deep in the heart of rural north Norfolk, a stunning 16th century building opened up its gates for a special celebratory event for one afternoon only.

Oxnead Hall is the former home of the famous Norfolk family the Pastons and to mark the 21st anniversary of the Paston Heritage Society (PHS), owners Beverley and David Aspinall allowed 85 guests a rare glimpse into the hall's grounds.

Chairman of the society, Rob Knee, explained that Friday's event was arranged for two key purposes.

'As well as celebrating the founding of the Paston Heritage Society by Lucy and Jack Care, we are launching a new book of poetry - Oxnead, a Paston Treasure - inspired by the history of Oxnead Hall, a one time jewel in the crown of the famous Paston family,' he said.

Written by Dr Knee and Norfolk poets Caroline Gilfillan and Tim Lenton - who together make up the offshoot of PHS, Chronicle - the group also treated guests to a performance at the hall.

With costumes and set made by Penelope Knee, the performance covered the Paston family's humble beginnings to the very highest ranks of society where the family entertained King Charles II at Oxnead Hall in 1671.

It was the cost of this visit, along with other huge financial problems, which marked the beginning of the downfall of the family. Only about a hundred years later the hall was a ruin and the treasures of the house dispersed and sold.

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And in the remains of the hall a huge collection of letters, for which the Paston family is internationally known, were discovered by Francis Blomefield.

To view one of the Paston letters, click here.

Member of PHS and guests from the University of East Anglia, Norwich's Dragon Hall and various other local arts organisations were invited to the event. They were each given a map to explore the grounds, gardens, outbuildings and also the nearby church with its underground tombs.

Dr Knee added: 'It's been our way of saying thank you to everyone who has helped with and been involved with the society.'

• On Saturday October 11 at St Margaret's Church, Paston, there will be a celebratory event to mark the completion of the first stage of the church's restoration. The new book will also be on sale. For more information visit

• Is your house due to be part of a special event? Email reporter