Large-scale project wins Heritage Lottery Fund support: volunteers needed


The Paston Heritage Society and Dr Karen Smyth, Senior Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern Literature at UEA, have received a £13,000 grant  from the Heritage Lottery Fund, representing initial support for the development of a community research project on the Pastons.

Paston Footprints 600 will be the first ever large-scale community project to uncover specific local links with the vibrant heritage of the Pastons, who as Norfolk’s most prominent family from 1380-1750 rose from medieval peasants to become lawyers and enter the dangerous European battlefields and Tudor courts. 

The project will bring to life the remarkable collection of Paston Letters. It is regarded as a timely project, with 2018 marking the 600th anniversary of the first letter, which will be celebrated in a major festival and exhibitions. 

UEA and other partners will provide skills training for volunteers on how to access and interpret archives, buildings, landscapes, monuments, tombs, heraldry and objects, thus providing the stories and materials for artistic interpretations and commentaries which will be used to create narratives for 10 heritage trail walks and celebratory events. 

After public consultation, it is clear there is a demand for new interpretative centres, drama productions and digital creations, including 3D modelling, which will be created by and for the communities to preserve, record and interpret the rich Paston heritage. 

Dr Karen Smyth said: “What underpins the range of activities is the empowering of local people to access their links to their heritage through skills training and through making the heritage accessible. The project aims to digitise the 16th and 17th century collections which are held in the Norfolk Record Office and join them through a single web portal, allowing on-line public access to the collections for the first time. 

"The Pastons hold an important place in Norwich's UNESCO City of Literature status, both as significant patrons of literature and in offering us the earliest collection of family letters in Europe, but also in the way they can inspire writers of today. Creative, artistic and innovative interpretations will be a major feature of this project.” 

The project has been awarded development funding to work with the heritage, tourism and educational sectors and communities across Norfolk. To date, four key hubs (in Norwich, Paston, Bacton and North Walsham) have helped, along with 120 responses by individuals to an online questionnaire. Project partners include the Norfolk Record Office, Norfolk Heraldry Society, Community Action Norfolk, Hungate Medieval Art and Active Norfolk. Numerous other community and heritage organisations are to be involved. The aim is to create ten regional Hubs, bringing together schools, historical societies and church communities. 

The team is now looking for more volunteers to join in, and for more partnerships with schools and community groups, and there are ongoing consultations throughout the summer. A special event for volunteers will be held in early September at UEA. More information can be found at our research site.

Dr Rob Knee, chair of the Paston Heritage Society, said: "We have a unique opportunity to connect the Paston family and their thousands of letters to scores of Norfolk places, people and local events of the 15th to 17th centuries. Join the journey and help us discover your links and share the remarkable story of the Paston family from the smallholdings at Paston to the glittering halls of their heyday. 

"We shall need to research the archives, study the landscape, decipher the heraldry and tombs of a dozen churches, work with local history groups and schools, organise festivals and exhibitions, create interpretative pieces, and plan walks and cycle routes that will allow visitors to recognise and follow the fascinating footprints of one of Norfolk's most remarkable families."  

Are you interested in finding out how to become involved and how to shape plans for the project? Please contact the team at or tweet @pastonfootprint
*Heritage Grants applications are assessed in two rounds.  A first-round pass is given when HLF has endorsed outline proposals and earmarked funding. The first-round pass also includes an immediate award to fund the development of the project. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF, and as long as plans have progressed satisfactorily and according to the original proposal, an award for the project is confirmed.
Thanks to National Lottery players, the Heritage Lottery Fund invests money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. @heritagelottery