The Paston Heritage Society Ltd

 

The Paston Heritage Society is a Company of Limited Guarantee and a registered charity. Our patron is Sir Henry Paston-Bedingfeld, 10th Baronet, who serves as Norroy and Ulster King of Arms. He lives at Oxburgh Hall.

Our long-term aim is to lease St Margaret's  Church, Paston, from the Diocese and keep it as a place of Christian Worship as well as a Visitor/Community Centre. The plans include an extension to be built on the north side of the church (using locally resourced materials). This extension would include a toilet (suitable for disabled), catering facilities and a meeting area.

The Paston Heritage Society was founded in 1993 after the successful Paston Festival of that year.  At the Festival we staged a community play, The Inheritance, by Nick McIvor, commissioned for the occasion and involving a cast of 20 adults and almost 100 children from local schools.  There were also re-enactors encouraging people to try archery, traditional games and food and a special festival service in the church. Since then the Heritage Society has worked persistently and quietly to preserve the heritage of the village and the area.

The Society was formed in response to the realisation locally that both the church and barn were in danger of irreparable damage if money could not be found to repair them, and that Paston village is too small to support such an inheritance from the past on its own.

The Paston family are famous because their letters and other papers have survived - one of only two collections of family letters from the 15th Century. 

The Paston inheritance once consisted of many large manor houses and stately homes, and the letters track how this small family from a remote area of Norfolk managed to gain such wealth and influence in the turbulent period known as the Wars of the Roses.

They travelled widely and were much concerned in affairs of the time; so the letters cover fashion, politics, warfare and marriage and are a great source of information for historians.

However, it is remarkable that so little of their buildings and those associated with them remain.  It seemed vital to the members of the Society that we act to preserve what little is still there and to bring the letters, which make delightful and interesting reading, to a wider audience - and one firmly connected to the Norfolk roots of the Paston Society.

We had some success and were able to run educational projects for schools and the public, hold concerts and run art projects as well as re-enactment and historical research on the site.  English Heritage agreed to re-thatch the church, and the North Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust bought the barn and began the mammoth task of restoring that.  We had plans for opening a visitor's centre in a wing of the barn to continue our work.

Then an exciting discovery was made, and the barn was recognised as a unique site - a habitat for rare bats.  This has caused the Paston Heritage Society to re-shape plans and to hold only a few open days in recent years, as the site of the church without the barn was not suitable for larger events.

However, we have been working closely with English Nature and the North Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust and are making progress towards achieving our original aims.

We have also been helped by the encouragement of the Griffon Area Partnership, who launched their new name at the church last year and who take their name from the Paston crest.

If you would like to become a member of the society or can offer support in any way, please contact pastongriffin@gmail.com, or write for our leaflet and booking forms to the address below.

Membership of the Paston Heritage Society

Membership is open to everyone interested in Paston and the Paston family - resident or non-resident, of any faith and of any degree of expertise in history! We welcome every offer of help.

Members news to update them on events held by the Society, as well as items of interest. We are most grateful for your support.

One of our aims is to provide visitors with a centre to meet physical needs and to offer a permanent display to show how far our research has got, and to introduce the history of Paston and the Paston family.

We are very aware that the church is a place of worship, and we hope that we can introduce its history as part of a living and not a dead community.

Membership is £15 a year. This gives voting rights at the annual meeting, but also includes liability to a maximum of £10 in the event of the company ceasing to exist and owing money. Clearly we hope this does not happen, but even if it does, we would expect (though we can't guarantee) to be in a position not to require the £10.

Family membership is available at a cost of £20.

Application forms are available from the membership secretary 

c/o Crowhurst, 
2 Station Road, 
North Walsham,     
Norfolk NR28 0EA

Or e-mail martincf@talktalk.net [This e-mail address is now correct. Apologies to those who tried and failed before.}

 

 

Aims of the Paston Heritage Society

  • To support the development of St Margaret's Church, Paston, as a focal point for information for the community and visitors.
  • To develop a digital (virtual) Paston Heritage Museum in partnership with the University of East Anglia, groups and individual interests, to support wider access to the study of the Paston Letters and related aspects.
  • To support the work of schools by contributing to local history and medieval studies in Key Stages 2 and 3.
  • To provide advice, visiting speakers, guides and re-enactors to support groups and events.

Trustees

Rob Knee
Lucy Care
Tim Lenton
Peter Stibbons

Committee

Chair - Rob Knee
Treasurer - Peter Stibbons 
Secretary - Tim Lenton
Committee members - Anne Digby, Ruth Bird, Josephine Marston