Pastons on show in Norwich at Dragon Hall

The new poetry book

Part of the Dragon Hall exhibition

Jo Berry, PHS chairman, at the private view

The Pastons had an unusual opportuinity to go on show in Norwich for a week in November – with an exhibition open to the public all week, and  workshops and other events. It was put on jointly by the Paston Heritage Society and Dragon Hall, and opened with a private view on the Monday evening (14th), when the new poetry book, Another Country, was successfully launched.

Guest of honour Sir Henry Paston-Bedingfeld was introduced by Dragon Hall organiser Sarah Power and spoke enthusiastically about some of the history of the family. Paston trustee Tim Lenton then introduced the five poets whose work features in the new book, and each of them read two of their poems. He concluded by thanking Lucy for her work and inspiration – and slipped a final poem in. 

Feedback from the private view was extremely positive, and refreshments – including mulled wine – provided by Dragon Hall went down well.

Another Country – by Dot Cobley, Caroline Gilfillan, Rob Knee, Tim Lenton and Kay Riggs, all of whom contributed to the original handmade book –  contains 18 poems, together with illustrations or photographs by three of the Paston artists, Lucy Care, Annette Rolston and Kit Price-Moss. It is available from the Paston Heritage Society or the individual poets, for £5. 

Tim said: "We see it as a kind of sequel, with the poems venturing into areas not covered by the Letters but in which the Pastons are still active. They include Norwich, Blofield, Oxnead and Oxburgh Hall."

The striking and historic Dragon Hall, which is just down the road from an ancient town house once owned by the Pastons, is a medieval merchant's house that has been recently restored and developed. It houses exhibitions and stages events of different kinds. Originally it was the home of the Guild of St George, of which the Pastons were members, so they would certainly have visited it.

The week-long event, in collaboration with the Hall, featured an exhibition including the £1000 hand-made book of art and poetry called The Pastons' Country, and artwork and poetry produced for it.  On the final weekend there were demonstrations by re-enactors of skills from the period of the Paston letters, including paper-making and calligraphy, with a lute player in attendance and special opportunities for children to get involved. 

On the Tuesday and Wednesday Annette Rolston and Tim Lenton repeated their art and poetry workshop from Oxburgh Hall (but with a Norwich slant); on the Wednesday there was a popular concert by Horses Brawl and storyteller Hugh Lupton; and on the Thursday local history expert Lucy Care gave a well-attended talk about the Pastons in Norwich. During the final weekend, as well as the re-enactments, there were guided walks in the city, covering the important Paston sites, led by Rob Knee and Tim Lenton. Happily, the weather was excellent for November.

The two Paston videos were playing all week, and documents kindly lent by the Norfolk Record Office were on show. Other workshops on stained glass and illuminated writing attracted a great deal of interest.