Paston Footprints Events

This page provides details about the events which accompany the exhibition Finding Paston Footprints: 400 Years of Norfolk Life, which is taking place at the Norfolk Record Office from Tuesday 10 August to Friday 29 October 2021 Tuesday-Friday 10a.m.-12.30p.m. and 2p.m.-4.30p.m.  

To find out about other Norfolk Record Office events during this period please see our Summer/Early Autumn Event page.


We are pleased to announce that some of our events are going to be available as in-person events for this programme- we are looking forward to seeing you! For those of you from further afield or who are still unable to visit in person don’t worry we still have a range of events online too. Please see below each event for options as to whether they are in-person, online or both.

All events have been subject to a risk assessment and staff will be following COVID safe procedures. If you are visiting the Norfolk Record Office during this period we ask that you please take note of the following current regulations:

  • Wear a facemask when inside the building
  • Follow social distancing guidelines
  • Follow the one-way system when entering and exiting the Green Room
  • Use hand sanitizer on entering the building/room
  • The maximum capacity of events is limited, to ensure a space please book using the links below. If you are no longer able to attend an event please let us know.
  • Do not attend an event if you have any of the 3 COVID-19 symptoms
  • We advise you take a Lateral Flow Device test a maximum of 3 days before attending an event

In-person events will only run depending on the current government guidelines at the time. Please check the website in case of cancellations. You will receive an email the day before any booked events which will detail any changes that may have to be made.



The following talks are part of the Paston Footprints project and accompany the exhibition at The Archive Centre, Norwich.

All are available online via Zoom. Please click on the buttons below to access the talk online. Many of the sessions are also available in person in The Archive Centre. For these please click on the button to book a ticket.

Supported by the National Heritage Lottery Fund, Paston Footprints is a collaboration between the University of East Anglia, the Paston Heritage Society and Norfolk Record Office.

Meet the Pastons

Wednesday 4 August, 1pm

The Pastons are one of Norfolk’s most prominent families in the 15th to 17th centuries but do you know who they are? Watch the highlights of the Paston story and meet the main characters, in animation form. Also hear about the Paston women being written back into history for the first time.

Note- This session is an online video which lasts approximately 30 minutes.

Booking required using the buttons below:

Paston Footprints: Gary Tuson in conversation with Rob Knee and Karen Smyth (Paston Footprints Co-Directors)

Wednesday 11 August, 1pm

Find out how local communities are being empowered to discover and connect with the Paston heritage and how over three hundred years of Norfolk’s history have been joined to bring Paston landscapes, legends and letters together.

Booking required using the buttons below:

Constance Paston: Natural Daughter of John Paston II

by Dr Jane Clayton (University of Surrey)

Wednesday 18 August, 1pm

Jane shares her discoveries about Constance, ‘bastard doughter of John Paston, knyght’, to whom her grandmother, Margaret Mautby Paston, in her will, left, ‘whan she is xx yer of age, x marc’.  Jane’s research has revealed who raised her, whom she married and other details of her adult life.  She is represented by the Paston arms in the bottom right-hand corner of the memorial brass of her grandson, John Clippesby, in St. Peter’s Church, Clippesby.’

Booking required using the buttons below:

Sensorial Experiences and the Paston Archives

by Dr Holly Maples (University of Essex)

Wednesday 25 August, 1pm

Historical documents, like letters, instructive pamphlets, and diaries offer powerful material for dramatic storytelling. However, how do you translate these historical documents into compelling and accessible stories? This talk features tools to help bring to life the rich history of the archives through Holly’s own work in dramatizing the Paston Letters for audio podcasts and theatrical performances.

Booking required using the buttons below:

The Paston Treasure: Mysteries and Discoveries  

by Francesca Vanke (Senior Curator, Norwich Museums)

Wednesday 1 September, 1pm

Dr Francesca Vanke, Keeper of Art at Norwich Castle, worked for several years on a research project exploring the Paston Treasure painting, the seventeenth century Paston family, and their art collection at Oxnead Hall. She will speak about some of the puzzles behind this enigmatic picture and the artefacts it portrays.

Booking required using the buttons below:

‘Paper is Deynty’: The Significance of Paper in the Paston Letters

by Dr Orietta da Rold (University of Cambridge)

Wednesday 8 September, 1pm

Paper is the main tool of communication in fifteenth-century England. The Paston family’s letters and network of acquaintances show that paper had made the transition from being a technological novelty to becoming a familiar tool, an essential instrument in everyday life. In this talk, Orietta Da Rold discusses how paper established itself as a commodity in epistolary culture and the stories paper can tell about medieval society and modes of communication. 

Booking required using the buttons below:

Finding Life in Margaret Paston’s Will

by Professor Joel Rosenthal (Stony Brook University: State University of New York)

Wednesday 15 September, 1pm

Margaret Paston, had a long life and for many years served as the at-home centre of the family activity.  She had a long widowhood and a collection of sons and daughters whose marriage plans (or the lack thereof), often proved troublesome to their mother. Toward the end Margaret wrote a long and very informative will.  If we follow the order in which she detailed her bequests we have a woman’s mini-autobiography, in effect moving serially through the segments of her life. Few medieval wills of lay women are as long, as detailed, and as revelatory of a long life.  The will is an appropriate capstone to the life and thoughts of a woman who had already written 100-plus letters that have been preserved.   

Note- This talk will be available to view via an online connection with the speaker.

Booking required using the buttons below:

Peerage to Penury: The Last Hundred Years of the Paston Family, 1632 – 1732

by Dr Jean Agnew (Retired archivist)

Wednesday 22 September, 1pm

The Paston Letters show how an aspiring Norfolk family achieved wealth and gentry status in the fifteenth century. By 1632 they were the richest gentry family in Norfolk. They went on to acquire the earldom of Yarmouth and a royal marriage, and their beautiful house at Oxnead with its treasures was the showpiece of Norfolk. A hundred years later, in 1732, when the second earl died, he left nothing but debts. So what went wrong? Come and find out!

Booking required using the buttons below:

The Royal Game

By Anne O’Brien (Historical novelist)

Wednesday 29 September, 1pm

Anne, in conversation, shares how 3 Paston women came from nowhere to challenge the course of history. She shares insights into how to un-silence the voices of women, which have been hiding in plain sight in the archives. Anne’s historical novel is published this month.

Note- This talk will be available to view in person, via an online connection with the speaker.

Booking required using the buttons below:

The Heraldry of the Pastons

By Dr John Alban (University of East Anglia)

Wednesday 6 October, 1pm

To the medieval Pastons, their heraldry was immensely important.  Their striking coat of arms, consisting of a white shield with six blue fleurs-de-lis, topped with a gold indented chief,  was inextricably linked with the family’s pedigree and, in particular, was a powerful instrument in the family’s assertion of its antiquity and status within society in the fifteenth century and later. This was of some consequence, considering that that pedigree, especially when relating to supposed earlier generations of the Pastons, was perhaps somewhat questionable.

However, it is important to bear in mind that, in its primary sense, heraldry was not a status symbol, but had originally developed from the twelfth century onwards as a means of individual recognition of the warrior, particularly in battle or in the tournament. This element certainly also applied to the fifteenth-century Pastons, who, with their many enemies, were obliged frequently to appear in arms.

Note- This talk will be available to view in person, via an online connection with the speaker.

Booking required using the buttons below:

Paston Heritage and the Support of Wellbeing

By Dr Rob Knee (Chair of the Paston Heritage Society, Co-Director of the Paston Footprints Project)

Wednesday 13 October, 1pm

Rob Knee describes the Paston Footprints project’s provision of engaging heritage experiences. He will explain how the project has met its key aim of supporting individual identity, community regeneration, mental and physical well being. Rob will go on to explain Dr Karen Smyth’s insights into where our practical experiences with heritage storytelling and wellbing intervenes in current research debates.

Booking required using the buttons below:

Finding New Footprints of Paston and Oxnead Halls

By Peter Stibbons

Wednesday 20 October, 1pm

New research has revealed information and changes in understanding about the Paston homes, and Peter will share these insights and their significance with 3D reconstructions.

Note- This talk will be available to view in person, via an online connection with the speaker.

Booking required using the buttons below:

Touching Paston Lives

By Dr Karen Smyth (University of East Anglia and Co-Director of Paston Footprints)

Wednesday 27 October, 1pm

Karen explores the challenges in telling the Paston stories that deal with emotions, politics and morality from a bygone age. Can a story that focuses on rising gentry and is buried in old archives, heraldry and tombs, engage modern society, and to what end: to entertain, educate, enrich, distract, reaffirm or reform the Pastons’ story. Or is it more about our story today? What happens when there is a mission to empower and immerse new audiences: is this development, reform or usurpation of the Paston letters?

Note- This talk will be available to view in person, via an online connection with the speaker.

Booking required using the buttons below:


Reading from the Archives: Early Pastons

Tuesday 17 August, 2pm

This special session of our popular reading from the archives event looks at some of the letters written by the Paston family and their correspondents. This session will include the world’s earliest Valentine’s letter, from Margery Brews to John Paston III, Feb 1477 read in middle English and a letter by Sir John Fastolf to John Paston in 1455.

Booking required using the buttons below:

Reading from the Archives: Later Pastons

Monday 23 August, 2pm

This special session of our popular reading from the archives event looks at some of the letters written by the Paston family and their correspondents. This session focuses Rebecca Paston and John Clayton’s letters to Sir Robert Paston describing his experiments with alchemy.

Booking required using the buttons below:

Weave your own Paston Story

Thursday 26 August, 11am

Dr Holly Maples, lecturer at the University of Essex, leads this 90 minute workshop. Through a range of activities Holly will demonstrate how to explore your own family letters and archives to tell your story and the story of those close to you. By following Holly’s guidance you will be able to create your very own drama based on these experiences.

Booking required using the buttons below:

Data Impact Visualisation

Thursday 21 October, 11am

In this 90 minute workshop Dr Karen Smyth, Senior Lecturer in Literature at UEA, will help you explore how to present data gleaned from archives that is engaging and has impact. A range of activities will introduce you to ways to create changing perspectives and reveal deeper meaning, trends and outliers with your raw data. Join us if you want to prepare your data for a talk presentation, structure your data to help with your own research, or create an impact for a website. Or would just like to experiment. No technical competency required, just an imagination.

Booking required using the buttons below:


We have 2 courses led by Norfolk Record Office archivist Tom Townsend. Each course is split into 6 1-hour sessions. Please see the details below.

An Introduction to the Handwriting of Tudor to Hanoverian Norfolk

Mondays from 27 September to 1 November, 10am (6 week course)

In this course, archivist Tom Townsend, with the class, will examine and read together a range of Norfolk documents written in a variety of Secretary Hand, Court hand, Italic Hand and later mixed hands. Tom will introduce each text and provide interpretation and guidance throughout each reading. Participants will have access to a bibliography, alphabets and other guides, along with both electronic and hard copies of the texts used in each 60 minute session

Sessions include:

1 An Introduction to the course resources

2 Abbreviation conventions and signs

3 Examining Secretary Hand

4 Introducing Court Hands

5 Roman numerals and their use in records

6 Late Chancery and Engrossing Hands

Booking required using the buttons below:

Title Deeds: an Introduction to their Form, Purpose and Interpretation

Mondays from 15 November to 20 December, 10am (6 week course)

In this course, the class will examine the format and texts of several types of historical deeds. During the 60 minute sessions, archivist Tom Townsend will introduce the historical context of the deeds and reveal the key phrases in each deed that help to recognise what it is and that introduce new sections within their texts. We will discuss their creation, original purpose, prevalence, and current informational value. Participants will be sent facsimile copies of each deed examined and will be given guidance to other resources for further study.

Sessions include:

1 What are deeds?

2 Freehold Conveyances

3 Copyhold Tenure

4 Leasehold tenure

5 Mortgages

6 Fictitious lawsuits and Settlements

Booking required using the buttons below: