Work has been completed to restore Drayton Lodge, a 15th-century tower which had lain derelict for centuries.
The restoration project was a collaboration between Hidden Talents Homes, who are building homes on the Drayton High Road site, and Historic England, who restored the lodge at a cost of £80,000.
Dr John Alban, honorary senior lecturer in the School of History at the University of East Anglia, completed the research and wrote the text for the two information boards, on behalf of the Paston Footprints Project, a group dedicated to preserving the memory of the Paston family.
He unveiled them earlier this month, saying: “This is an auspicious day. Drayton Lodge may be a small building and one perhaps not widely known, but it is important in many respects and therefore deserves not to be overlooked.
“It is one of the earliest examples in England of the use of brick – in this case, in a building designed to have a fortified appearance, even though it had little actual military strength.”
The building has connections with the Paston family and Sir John Fastolf, a Norfolk knight who – through his long and impressive military career in the service of the three Lancastrian kings during the Hundred Years’ War in France – gained a fortune from the profits of war.
This was reinvested in buying numerous estates in England, and in a major building programme which, in the 1430s, saw the simultaneous construction of Caister Castle, Hellesdon Manor House and Lodge, and Drayton Lodge itself.
The history of Drayton Lodge is intriguing. It has variously been described as a “plaisance”, a hunting lodge and a strategic lookout post, but it was probably originally conceived as a small, fortified manor house.
Like the much larger Caister Castle, it is significant as an early example of a brick-built, fortified structure.
The Paston family acquired the lodge after Fastolf’s death, and it was during their ownership that the building was attacked by the forces of John de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, who contested their ownership of the manors at Drayton and Hellesdon.
“Much of the lodge’s history is obscure, but we know that after Fastolf’s death in 1459 it was acquired by the Paston family, who used it, variously, as a hunting lodge or as an occasional retreat where banquets were held, and as a local administrative seat where manorial courts took place,” said John. “In 1465, a large force of the Duke’s armed retainers entered the Paston manors of Hellesdon and Drayton and ‘beat down’ the Paston properties there. Drayton Lodge was left as a ruin, which the Pastons chose not to repair.”
The lodge fell increasingly into a sad state of disrepair, which resulted in it being placed on Historic England’s heritage at risk register.
“Its recent conservation is therefore to be welcomed – and congratulations and thanks must go to Hidden Talents Homes and Historic England for their excellent partnership work which has not only seen the building removed from the register but has ensured that it will survive to provide enjoyment and inspiration for future generations,” said John.
Dr Rob Knee, a co-director of the Paston Footprints Project, said: “With the presence of the information boards at this site, the Paston Footprints Project has now provided information and explanations for all of the surviving buildings in Norfolk that tell the story of the Paston family.”