Gresham became, moments after arriving there, one of my favourite places in the whole of East Anglia. Not only are we looking at a small wooded enclosure where one can find scattered pieces of masonry all about, this is also a very small — and, therefore, understandable — site.
The above is what a person on the approach sees — would you think that is a castle? I wouldn’t, if I didn’t know. One might also think there is nothing to see here, only the remains of a moat and some higher earthworks where the walls used to stand. How wrong that person would be…
The history of the place sees some local conflicts as well as several notable families take possession. The story begins when sir Edward Bacon was given a licence to crenellate in 1318 by Edward II. An earlier castle stood on the site, and sir Edward had some doing to get rid of it and replace it with his own vision that consisted of a strong enclosure, flanked by four round towers, three of which the intrepid explorer can still find when looking about.
William Paston, a local lawyer, purchased the land and property in 1427, and it is his family, mostly through the works of his son John Paston and his son John, who oversee Gresham’s collapse and ruin. Namely, these fine folk had found reason for a quarrel with the Moleyns and other local families (who owned nearby properties such as Baconsthorpe). The purchase was contested, and over the next three decades the castle underwent a stable decline while either the Moleyn henchmen or the Paston family had ownership, neither for stable or long periods, especially in the late 1440’s and early 1450’s.
When the Paston’s received ownership again for a longer period of time, the property was in a bad way and the family had no means or will to rebuild it to a grander state. The last of these plans failed by the Greshams in the early 1470’s, after which the five centuries that have passed have only witnessed nature reconquering the human landscape while local people misappropriated the flint stones previously used in the construction of the castle.