The Paston family had a long association with Blofield. Margaret Paston (1423-1484) was descended from the Berney family, who owned much of the land between Blofield and Great Yarmouth. In the 16th century Edward Paston of Blofield brought the two families together again, marrying Margaret Berney, another heiress.
The Pastons' presence there also marks the end of the ongoing dispute between the Paston family and the Heydon family with the marriage of William Paston to Bridget Heydon in 1498; Thomas, one of their children, received the manor of Blofield for his service to King Henry VIII and started what is known as the "cadet" line of the family. The main line continued through Thomas's oldest brother Erasmus. Thomas's son Edward has an impressive memorial on the church wall.
Richness in Memorials
The research to produce a Blofield Church leaflet and an internal display board was an early task of the Footprints project. The tombs and monuments in the church open up the story of this line of the family, which had become successful and wealthy from the time of the knight John Paston III. He had served the monarchs of his time, son William did the same and the ultimate good fortune came to 'gentleman of the bedchamber' Thomas, who benefited from the largesse of Henry VIII after the King had confiscated many church lands. He sold most for his own wealth, but gave some to particular followers, including Blofield to Thomas.
Of the memorials in the church, perhaps most splendid is that to Edward Paston, shared as it is with his wife and his seven children. The downloadable Paston Footprints leaflet provides information about the church, the monuments and the Pastons in Blofield.
Edward was a talented musician, and it has been appropriate that the Footprints project has been able to support concerts in the church by Hexachordia, featuring music of Edward's time. Their web site contains full information on booking them for concerts, and on up-and-coming concerts if you'd like to attend.
They've made significant contributions to the Footprints project, including the three concerts at Blofield Church. On this web site you can enjoy extracts from one of their their educational programmes.
If you would like to hear from our animated Edward Paston, he'll tell you the story of his life. You'll also find there a range of information and activity sheets which might be useful if you are involved in teaching at school at or at home.
Blofield in the Paston Letters
Throughout the Paston Letters there are many mentions of people and places, including Blofield. Early on in the letters the parson of Blofield appears as a reluctant executor to Sir John Fastolf's will. Thomas Howes, that parson of Blofield, served as chaplain to Sir John Fastolf and thus occurs regularly in the Letters.
With over 1600 letters now in the databases on this site, it's a rich experience for the family or local historian to look up such references. While we've much indexing still to do, there are two powerful search facilities already available. Within the Paston Footprints project it is possible to use the letter search facilities to find references to places and people. Behind the scenes our volunteers have undertaken a substantial task to cross-reference the many and various spellings of place names and personal names, to enable you to carry out searches. You can also search for places by use of the map search page and following the instructions there.
Community at the Church
Blofield is a very active community church and their programme has included special events linked to the Paston Footprints project, as with the concerts mentioned above.
Early in the project there was a full day of activities with members of the Paston Heritage Society and others in costume to demonstrate skills and play parts from medieval times. Handwriting skills with quill pens are always popular, demonstrations of spinning and weaving were undertaken and there were many activities for children. History Day is a popular item on the Blofield Church agenda, and the Paston story fits right in.
As well as the various documents of the Paston Letters which contain references to the manor of Blofield, the Norfolk Record Office holds other documents. Of particular interest is the "book of Edward Paston Esq. for his manor of Bloffelde in the town of Bloffelde and in other towns and hamlets in Norfolk, made by John Debney of Norwich, public notary and by the tenants of the manor".
A small conference was held at the Record Office to consider a way forward, and the whole book has now been photographed.
Dated 1586 in the reign of Elizabeth I, it provides a detailed account of landholdings and of land use in the parish. The pages of the document will be available on this site, but with the text in Latin and expertise in landholding being needed, it is proving a challenging document to access!
Blofield Primary School was the venue for a Footprints Teachers' conference. PHS trustees Tim Lenton and Peter Stibbons were present, but the main sessions were led by Tim Taylor and Dot Lenton, both experienced in advanced teaching methods – Tim's speciality is Mantle of the Expert, which involves ways of getting into the story through drama and role play; Dot's is Philosophy for Children, which involves thinking skills through a community of inquiry. Education advisor Sue Eagle has developed a substantial module for teaching across a range of skills based on aspects of the Paston story. This is being prepared for access in the Education section of this site.
A Blofield Walk
For each of the Footprints hubs, we've established a trail and activities – the former for more adventurous walkers, the latter for families to explore locally. With the help of Norfolk County Council, these are now well-marked trails; look for the blue markers with the griffin logo. You can follow a map available online.
If you can't get out and about yourself, you can also follow the walks and listen to the podcasts on-screen from this web site or from the Paston Footprints web site. Enjoy our photographs of the the history – both human history and natural history.
Later in 2021 you'll be able to access a Phone App to act as a guide as you walk and supply a podcast for various locations. There's a web-based version of the Phone App and in due course there will be a version available from the Google App store and the iPhone App store.
The Paston family memorials can be found in the chancel of Blofield church.Look down to the floor to see some of the Paston markers.