Paston Footprints Project Timeline


Paston Footprints is about enticing and empowering people to explore their connections with 300 years plus of Paston letters, lives and legends.


In 2014, Dr Rob Knee (Chair of PHS) and Dr Karen Smyth (for UEA) agreed to begin the process of an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for financial support for a substantial project. Awarded a HLF Development grant for 2015–2017, major public consultations were undertaken with the help of five leading partners: the Paston Heritage Society, University of East Anglia, Community Action Norfolk, the Norfolk Record Office and University of Brunel. In this public scoping exercise (of 24 organisations, 10 community hubs and 357 individuals), involving focus groups, community surveys, and a cross-sector symposium, four key desires emerged time and time again:

• make the Paston Story more widely known;
• digitise the NRO Paston letters and related archives;
• make engaging walks for fitness and heritage;
• engage more young people (school children and under 30s).

Our mission emerged to be:

• a project to facilitate people to uncover local links with the vibrant multi-disciplinary Paston heritage, through community-based historical research and creative storytelling methods;
• widening access to the three centuries of the Paston story, through democratisation to the archives (via digitisation, interpretation and training), through enabling non-traditional heritage users via walking and creative experiential activities; and removing age barriers through development of family and school learning resources;
• the first facilitation of bringing multiple professional and community partners and organisations together to promote the globally significant Paston heritage.

Funder and governing structure

In 2017, a final bid of close to 80,000 words and 22 partner letters of support were submitted and we were awarded £374,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, with Co-Directors as Dr Karen Smyth (UEA) and Dr Rob Knee (PHS). Our collaborative partners, all who have played roles for various durations on our steering committee, were named as the Norfolk Record Office, Community Action Norfolk, Diocese of Norwich, University of Brunel and later Essex, and Hungate Medieval Art.

2018: 600th year festival and getting the Paston story known

This year marked the 600th anniversary of the first Paston letter. This was celebrated with an exhibition at St Peter's Church, Hungate in Norwich and a series of talks, performances and events in the city and across Norfolk. We reached an audience of over 7,500 people during this year. The Norwich Castle Museum put on an exhibition 'The Paston Treasure', in partnership with the University of Yale, seen by over 40,000 people. Our development research was consulted in their creation of a summer activity programme. Our drama director, Dr Holly Maples, secures funding from Arts Council England and creates three immersive productions, with audiences taking part in performances at Mannington Hall, Oxnead Hall and Norwich Castle Museum.

2019: widening access to the letters, community action and education

This second stage saw festival days, events and symposiums at Mannington Hall, North Walsham Church and Great Yarmouth. Work begins on the 3D reconstructions of Paston buildings, the digitisation of the Norfolk Record Office's 17th century collection of Paston Letters and creation of the editions database. Work with the 10 Paston Footprints' community hubs continues. The creation of a Teachers Conference for early January 2020 is developed from the 'Mantle of the Expert' educational resource produced for the project.

2020: digital focus

The Covid pandemic leads to the expansion of the web site, to provide an extensive range of educational materials to support schools and home learning. Animations of Paston characters (which have proven highly popular with all age groups) are added. Social media communications are developed.

2021: Walks, Women and Wellbeing

The 8 Paston Footprints' Heritage Walks and 2 cycle rides are established in partnership with Norfolk County Council Trails, with information displays, waymarking, audio trails, creative and children's activities for each walk. A second web site is established to support the experiential walks programme.
With the continued pandemic, our digital hub community grows with a major social media campaign to un-silence Paston women's voices and write them back into history. Each Paston woman now has a web page of their own. A photography competition is launched, to encourage people to capture the spirit of Paston Country and share on social media. This helps to start our experiential partnership programme, with prizes donated by other cultural, creative and wellbeing groups to support our Paston Walks. Partnerships to develop experiential tourism and wellbeing emphasis in the future begin.
A final exhibition 'Finding Paston Footprints' is staged at the Norfolk Record Office with a series of 13 talks, 4 workshops and two six-week online training courses, one on 17th century palaeography and the other on late 16th to early 18th century title deeds, featuring Paston documents and other Norfolk archives.

2022: Wellbeing Development

Supported by a UEA PVC Impact fund, a focus on reaching new demographics with our heritage trail walks focused on the wellbeing sector. In addition, a new walk, in North Walsham, supported by a North Norfolk District Council HAZ grant was created, with an associated cultural programme of events.

2023: Creative Access Research

New research is shared by Rob Knee and Peter Stibbons in a series of public talks. In addition, Karen Smyth is leading on research partnerships with 3rd sector health organisations, with a focus on how people with disabilities often have a unique lens to interpret heritage spaces, through their embodied, sensory experiences and situated knowledge. This collaboration is offering a fresh way to tell the stories of the Pastons' rich cultural heritage.

Partnerships Legacy

The Footprints project reaches the end of the first chapter. In the course of 4 years, over 40 organisations have been involved in collaborative work with many hundreds of individuals supporting the project and many thousands engaging with the project in many different ways. A project of the people by the people.

Project Team

Dr Rob Knee, Co-Director of Paston Footprints

Chair of the Paston Heritage Society – Project management, Hubs, Walks, HAZ and talks co-ordinator, researcher, re-enactor, script author, display creation, evaluation.

Dr Karen Smyth, Co-Director of Paston Footprints

Associate Professor in Medieval Literature – Project and budget management, Walks, creative-wellbeing activities, NRO exhibition and evaluation co-ordinator, co-creator, tutoring of volunteers, display creation.

Holly Maples, Drama director

Senior Lecturer in Drama, University of Essex - Drama producer, actress, audio drama tour guides producer and actor, training of re-enactors and school children, creative productions by East 15 students. Also director of Collisions Theatre.

Emily Parker, Marketing director

Marketing, communications, co-creator, walk activities co-ordinator

Peter Stibbons, Digital Director

Paston Heritage SocietyTrustee – creator, editions database creator, animations co-ordinator, video production, drone and photography co-ordinator.

Tim Lenton

Paston Heritage Society Trustee - editorial consultant,

Partnership Mission

The Paston Footprints' mission has been to enable people to identify and have a sense of belonging with the Paston heritage, to promote community pride and facilitate a wide demographic of people to be active in telling the Paston story has resulted in a unique and wide-ranging project. This partnership emphasis has brought together the heritage, academic, educational, creative, community, well-being, business and tourism sectors across Norfolk and beyond. Paston Footprints belongs to and has only been possible with a wide range of expert partnerships.

Major Partners

We are grateful for the sharing of expertise and support from:

Paston Heritage Society: Lucy Care, Diana George, Carole Martin, Phil Martin. Pat Crabtree, Brigette, Ruth
Community Action Norfolk - community consultations, dissemination, advice
Thanks to Rik Martin.
Darren Leader Studios - Production of NRO archive training courses, on palaeography and title deeds, with Dave Guttridge photography.
Diocese of Norwich -project planning, display permissions, communications, activities.
Thanks to Caroline Rawlings.
Hungate Medieval Art - venue for 2018 Exhibition and talks series, and Norwich hub hosts.
Thanks to Sophie Cabot, Paul Harvey, volunteers and trustees.
Norfolk County Council - Environment and Community team: auditing and H & S check of Paston Walk routes, maintenance of routes, map creations, web promotion and analytics.
Thanks to Sophie Cabot, Paul Thorogood, Matt Hayward, and Chris Brough - Experiential Tourism team (Inter-Reg funded): Helene Pasquier, Stuart Hall and Joel Pailes.
The Norfolk Heraldry Society, Chair Penny Knee- events, educational materials, advice, research
Norfolk Record Office - digitisation, exhibition and lecture series host, support for hub research, archive training, education workshops.
Thanks to Gary Tuson, Jenny Watts, Nick Selwood, Victoria Draper, Tom Townsend, Karen Gaffney and Claire
Norwich Castle Museum -partnership support with Paston Treasure Exhibition, photography competition and Norwich walk.
Thanks to Steve Miller, Francesca Vanke and the Communications team.

Eleven Hubs:

Bacton and Paston- Philip Burton, Jo Arnold
Blofield- Barbara Pilch;
Dereham Heritage Trust - Robena Brown, Lucy Care, Trevor Ogden, Sue Rockley, Sue Walker-White;
Great Yarmouth Historical and Archaeological Society - Dr Paul Davies, Andrew Fakes, Michael Boon
Gresham- Julia Drury;
Hellesdon -Danny Buck;
Mannington- Lady Walpole;
Mautby- Shirley Travis , June Pratt
North Walsham- Bob Wright;
Norwich- Hungate, Castle, Maid's Head, Paul Dickson;
Oxnead- Beverley & David Aspinall.


Brissco - waymarking discs
Rocket Design - Paston Country map and North Walsham display
Starfish Design, Nick Stone - display boards, waymark design, booklets, posters, banners, NRO and Hungate exhibition design.

University of East Anglia services:

Research and Innovation Services (especially Polly, Hannah and Phil); Finance Office; Human Resources; Ruth Selwyn-Crome (Events and Engagement Assistant); Chris Blincoe (Impact Relationships Manager) Matt Champion (Project Manager, 2018–19); Dr Rebecca Pinner (Senior Lecturer in Literature); student volunteers from the Schools of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, History and Business Studies. Also, the Medical Humanities network at the university and UEA Virtual Past.

A special thank you to some outstanding individual volunteers and freelancers:

3D graphics: James Mindham
Animations: Craig Smith
Animated Characters: Paper Veil
Costumes: Historic costumes designer and producer, Penny Knee
The Dendrochronology team
Drone - CHPV Media Services
Educational resources:
Georgia Knee, Sue Eagle, Tim Taylor, Dot Lenton
Evaluation Advisor: Sophie Cabot
Evaluation Research Assistant: Audrey Woodhouse
Heraldry expert: Dr John Alban (History, UEA)
Heritage Lottery Fund advisor: Claire Adler
Landscape History: Dr Sarah Spooner (History, UEA)
Paintings: Graham Turner
Photographers: Charlotte Knee, Glenn Hands, Rik Martin, Peter Stibbons
Project Planning Consultant Development Stage: Naomi Care
Social Media: Audrey Woodhouse
Walking Research: Dr Sarah Hanson (Lecturer in Health Sciences, UEA)
Website Technology:
Web editor for and for print materials: Tim Lenton

Other collaborators

Thanks and acknowledgements for advice, assistance and event activities also to:

Barningham Hall, Tom and Amelia Courtauld
Blofield Church of England Primary School
Brundall Primary School
Bure Valley Railway
Bure Navigation Conservation Trust
Cromer Crab and Lobster Festival
Siri Taylor (Cromer Artworks)
Fit Together (North Norfolk)
Fleggburgh Primary School
Great Yarmouth Local History and Archaeology Society
Hemblington Primary School
Inspiring Norfolk
Leggit and Picket
The Maid's Head Hotel, Norwich
Monument Pilot and Dementia Adventure
National Writers Centre, Norwich
Newfoundland Divers
NNDC/Orchestras Alive
Norfolk Bodgers
Norfolk County Libraries
Norfolk Green Care Network
Norfolk Heritage Centre, with the Young Heritage Collective and History Hunters
North Walsham Heritage Action Zone
North Walsham High School
Norwich and Norfolk Medieval Association
Paston College, North Walsham
Paston Heritage Society Reenactors
Restoration Trust
Rosie's Plaques
Sainsbury's Centre for Visual Arts
Shardlake Tours
Tudor 17thc Living History Experience
Worstead Weavers
Wymondham High School

Expert talks/workshops by:

Dr John Alban (Heraldry, University of East Anglia)
Dr Jean Agnew (retired NRO archivist)
Lucy Care (Paston Heritage Society)
Matthew Champion (History, Footprints Project Manager 2018-19)
Dr Jayne Clayton (Literature, University of Surrey)
Dr Orietta da Rold (Literature, University of Cambridge)
Dr Nicholas Groves (Norwich Historic Churches)
Dr Rosemary Horrocks (Literature, University of Cambridge)
Tim Lenton (Paston Heritage Society)
Dr Rob Knee (Paston Heritage Society)
Dr Holly Maples (Drama, University of Essex)
Dr Elizabeth McDonald (Literature, University of East Anglia)
Dr Vic Morgan (History, University of East Anglia)
Anne O'Brien (Historical Novelist)
Sarah Rodgers (Composer)
Professor Joel Rosenthal (Literature, State University of New York)
Dave Tonge (Storyteller)
Dr Karen Smyth (Literature, University of East Anglia)
Peter Stibbons (Paston Heritage Society)
Tom Townsend (NRO archivist)
Dr Francesca Vanke (Keeper of Art, Norwich Castle)
David Viner (editions database)
Professor Tom Williamson (History, University of East Anglia)
Dr James Wright (Archaeology, University of Nottingham)
Voice-overs and actors (animations, audio tours, videos)
Tonks Blom, Alanna Forrester, Michelle Kelly, Rob Knee, Sarah Lawrie, Richard Leeds, Ben Porter,Ivan Cutting, Eileen Ryan, Peter Stibbons, Holly Maples, Tony Schruegger, Bryony Stibbons, Matthew Wade, Tom Watson, Theo Vann-Leeds, Deborah Yau,

Web entries for and

Dr Jean Agnew (retired NRO archivist)
Dr Nicholas Groves (Historian)
Dr Rob Knee (Co-Director Paston Footprints)
Tim Lenton (Paston Heritage Society)
Emily Parker (Marketing Consultant)
Dr Vicki Kay Price (Bangor University, Wales)
Michele Schindler (Historical novelist)
Dr Karen Smyth (Co-Director Paston Footprints)
Peter Stibbons (Digital Director Paston Footprints)

Iterative Research and Design

We are also very grateful to the large number of volunteers, who remain anonymous, who have in focus groups and through individual feedback helped us to develop, test and improve our outputs. Some have been students, community members from the Paston hubs, people attending our events or online friends from this country and further afield.


We are grateful to the following organisations who have generously given us financial and project support:

National Heritage Lottery Fund (2014-16, 2018-2021)
Arts Council England (2018)
Economic and Social Research Council (2018)
University of East Anglia (2019)
North Walsham Heritage Action Zone, Historic England (2021)

Future possibilities:

The DNA of Paston Footprints is that it opens up the Paston story to help people, from all kinds of walks in life, to discover, connect with and take part in the Paston story. We are always open to new partnerships and suggestions. Please contact us at any time.