Project Details

Welcome to the 'Paston Footprints' project

You'll find on this website a way in to an amazing hub of links, information, people and places, which over six centuries have formed the Paston story. Wherever you start, whether your interest is in reading medieval literature or donning walking boots, in 3D reconstructions or school learning activities, creative poetry or drama, Wars of the Roses or the rebellious Paston women, goshawks, early music or drone photography, we hope you will be led further into understanding the world of this remarkable family and the impact they had, and continue to have, on Norfolk. In particular we hope you will find it a new and interesting way of discovering the Norfolk countryside.

What should you expect on this journey? Exploring Paston heritage reveals the history of Norfolk as a social and economic engine room for the whole country during the 15th-17th centuries. The letters take us around the villages and along the lanes of North and East Norfolk, and often through a plague-ridden and at times lawless Norwich. We go behind the scenes of a siege at Caister Castle and share in the attempted defence of Hellesdon Manor, beset by the Duke of Suffolk's army. The turbulent years of the Wars of the Roses are chronicled from the perspective of a family desperately trying to navigate their way through and preserve their hard-won status and wealth. Many stories of births and deaths, love and marriage, sieges and politics, reading habits and alchemy experiments have new life breathed into them through our community driven project, which has heritage, creative, wellbeing, educational, digital and festive storytelling strands.

Paston Footprints continues, led by Dr Karen Smyth (UEA) and Dr Rob Knee. The HLF funded phase has now concluded and we thank all the organisations and individuals who contributed to the project. A number of these individuals are continuing to support the maintenance and development of this website, led by Peter Stibbons and David Viner.

The Paston Footprints' mission

  • to entice and empower 21st century people to become curious about the Pastons
  • to connect the legends, letters and landmarks of the Pastons

We are the:

  • first large-scale community driven project to uncover specific local links with the vibrant Paston heritage;
  • first exploration of the entire 300 years of the Paston story;
  • first facilitation of bringing together professional and community based heritage, educational, wellbeing, creative, religious, commercial, leisure and tourism sectors to promote the globally significant Paston heritage.

Why we do this:

Invest in People:

  • through creative forms of engagement with Paston heritage, thereby enabling wider audiences to participate;
  • enhancing opportunities for social and physical wellbeing, through promoting community investment in their local heritage, stimulating a sense of belonging, and in the active physical engagement with the heritage through heritage trail walking and cycling.

Make Paston heritage accessible:

  • opening access to seeing and understanding the Paston heritage, from the archives to privately owned buildings (through digitisation and 3D modelling, with accompanying interpretative scaffolding and deeper learning exercises);
  • lasting all-age learning activities – in churches, in interpretation centres, and online;
  • schools' impact – enabling schools' to be active research centres, enabling teachers to use the Paston heritage more prominently through learning resources, thereby enabling longevity past the funded period.

Promote the visibility and enticing new audiences to the Paston story:

  • celebration in the public imagination to be sustained via media impact;
  • facilitating partnership networks;
Oxnead Hall, a lithograph of the hall in its prime, set in a modern photograph.Oxnead Hall, a lithograph of the hall in its prime, set in a modern photograph.

Who we are:

The project began as a National Heritage Lottery Fund collaboration between the University of East Anglia and the Paston Heritage Society. The project is now developing with a focus on this site as 'the' Paston portal on the web and developing the Paston heritage trails, which can be accessed at The Paston Heritage Society has now closed but past members will endeavour to answer queries from this site.

Our main project partners include the Norfolk Record Office, Community Action Norfolk, Norfolk County Council, Diocese of Norfolk, University of Essex, and numerous Schools, heritage groups, Churches, and community groups across 'Paston Country'. For a full list of participants, visit our credits page.