The rise and fall of the Pastons
- By Elaine Bird
- 09 August 2021
A new exhibition at the Norfolk Record Office shoes how this family rose from labourers to knights - and the twist in the tale as they fell from power.
The Paston Footprints Exhibition tells the story of the Paston family from the Middle Ages to the Stuart period. The Pastons are most famous for their family letters, the largest and earliest collection of its kind in the world.
Colourful 15th-century heraldry records and manor maps help chart the family’s rise, whilst 17th century letters about alchemy and spiralling debts reflect how they desperately tried to rescue their failing wealth.
Gary Tuson, County Archivist at the Norfolk Record Office said:
“The exhibition will give visitors an intimate insight into the lives of this famous family and show how the Pastons made their mark on the landscape and buildings that surround us in Norfolk today. It’s wonderful to be able to accompany the exhibition with a series of talks and courses which will help anyone explore their own stories from Norfolk’s past.”
Alongside the letters, display items will also include a reproduction crossbow and recreations of costumes and surgeon’s tools.
Alongside the more traditional displays will be 3-D digital reconstructions of major Paston homes and buildings including Paston and Oxnead Halls, Gresham Castle and Bromholm Priory. Visitors can also scan QR codes that link to letter readings, music and even early dance moves.
Nick Sellwood arranging exhibition case (credit - Norfolk County Council)
Karen Smyth, Paston Footprints Co-Director and Associate Professor of Literature at UEA, said:
“The stories of the ‘Paston family bubble’ and the ‘un-silencing of Paston women’s voices’ illustrate how a family living during the Wars of the Roses and in an Age of Plague can still have a connection to us today.”
The exhibition runs from 10th August until 29th October.