I adopt the chosen character and in costume, use the Paston Letters and related sources to provide an individual history as well as a perspective on the life and times of the Pastons. The costumes are created by Penelope Knee. Talks tailored to suit audiences and locations.
From the Aylsham Local History Society: ‘ Thank you, Rob, for a most informative talk on ‘The Pastons’. It was greatly enhanced by your appearance in character costume and your ability to find humour amongst the Paston Letters’
From the Cromer Society:’ His presentation was not without humour, retaining the attention of an audience of over 60 each week. Each lecture began with the life and letters of the Paston whose costume he was wearing. Robert filled in the historical details. The course was very well received’
From the Dereham Antiquarian Society: Just a line or two to thank you for the splendid show you gave to members of the Dereham Antiquarian Society.
I have had some very good feed back from members and they are interested in another talk in next years programme.
So I’ll be looking to book you for the 2016 programme in the near future.
Sir John Fenn of East Dereham, Norfolk who was responsible for publishing the Paston Letters
Sir William Paston, through inheritance from a number of family members, became a very wealthy man during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Sir William provides an important link between the family in the early part of the 16th century to the beginning of the 17th century. Sir William used his wealth to build a fine house, great barn and alms houses at Paston, also founding the famous Paston School in North Walsham in 1606 (where Nelson later attended). Sir William lived quietly in Norfolk compared to his Uncles Thomas and Admiral Clement Paston, both of whom achieved fame and favour at the Tudor Court. Sir William provides both narrative and insight into the Reformation and the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth.
Sir John Paston, the younger son of John and Margaret, played a key role in sustaining the family during the turbulent years when the Pastons’ enemies confronted them on all sides and the country experienced the confusion and lawlessness of the Wars of the Roses. John was initially attached to the Duke of Norfolk’s household at Framlingham and used this experience to good effect when in 1479 he became the head of the family. John led the defence against the siege of Caister Castle and was wounded when fighting for the defeated Lancastrian army at Barnet in 1471. John received the first ever recorded Valentine’s letter from his wife to be Margery and went on to steer the family through to calmer waters. Sir John was knighted by Henry VII after the Battle of Stoke in 1487.
Sir John Paston was the eldest son of John and Margaret Paston. Sent to attend court in London by his father, who hoped he could achieve useful influence with the King. John, much to his father’s displeasure, grew to enjoy the pageantry and excitement of courtly life. On one occasion Sir John jousted on the ‘royal’ team beside the King. Despite the criticisms, particularly when he left his younger brother to defend Caister Castle against the seige by the Duke of Norfolk’s army, Sir John managed to eventually secure royal acknowledgement that the Pastons were members of the gentry and ultimately secured the family’s possession of Caister Castle. Sir John was an avid reader and worked on his own ‘great book’ concerning heraldry, warfare and his inspirations; King Arthur and Robin Hood. Sir John succumbed to the plague in 1479 and was buried near his home in Fleet Street.
Richard Calle came from Framlingham in Suffolk and served the Pastons as a very able and loyal bailiff, being present at many of the critical moments. When the family inherited the vast Fastolf estates in 1459, Calle’s value to the family grew and there are many references in the letters to show his key role. Alas, all was to change when Richard and Margery Paston (the daughter of John Paston) fell in love and spoke the sacred words of betrothal. Despite Calle’s abilities and education (he regularly scribed letters for the family) the Pastons were not having an employee marrying into the family. There followed an enormous row, with the lovers being hauled in front of the Bishop of Norwich. However, the vow could not be undone and following a brief period of exile in West Norfolk the couple were married. Calle returned to work for the Pastons eventually but things were never the same. Calle’s story provides insight into the life and activity of the medieval household.
The testing of John Paston 1
The unique collection of the 15th century Paston Letters, edited by John Fenn of Dereham, vividly describe the struggles of a family seeking to climb the ladder of society and shake off the accusations of a humble birth, against a backdrop of the turbulent and lawless years of civil war.
Judge William Paston had accumulated a substantial number of estates and on his death left his son and heir John Paston in a very dangerous position.
With the help of his fearless and indomitable wife Margaret, John Paston managed to weather the initial storms. However, John’s controversial inheritance of the vast holdings and wealth of Margaret’s cousin Sir John Fastolf, for whom John Paston had worked, threw the family back into the clutches of two formidable enemies, the Dukes of Suffolk and Norfolk.
Share, through the insights of the family letters, John Paston’s enthralling and desperate story.
William’s father, Clement, was a man of humble birth and status who had the vision to secure an education for his son. William made the most of the opportunity and after his training as a lawyer at the Inns of Court in London, he became a Sergeant at Law and subsequently a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. His success as a lawyer earned him the title ‘The Good Judge’ and brought him many estates, including ownership of Cromer, land and property at Oxnead, Gresham, West Beckham, Norwich and the development of a manor and manor house at Paston. By marriage to heiress Agnes Berry, William also gained property in Hertfordshire and Suffolk. Judge William was involved in a number of high profile cases, both in London and locally through his work for the Bishop of Norwich. Judge William’s power and wealth set the family on an upward path but also left an inheritance that would prove to be a mighty challenge for his young son John.