The Paston Family

The Pastons were one of Norfolk’s most prominent families in the Middle Ages and Tudor periods and have a remarkable rags to riches story.

Using education, good business sense and pioneering entrepreneurial spirit, the Paston family broke through the social barriers of the day to rise from humble country origins to the inner circles of the Tudor and Stuart courts. They provide first-hand testimonies of extraordinary resilience to the turbulent times they lived in, especially the women whose courage and fortitude played a key role in their success. They were, in many ways, the first modern family. 


The Paston Letters

Their story is captured in the earliest surviving family letter collection in the world dating back to 1374, including the earliest Valentine letter. The letters give us a unique insight into what people in the Middle Ages and Tudor periods thought and felt about their daily lives. You can read a selection of the Paston letters on our sister site, developed by and for heritage lovers: This Is Paston.

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A Norfolk story

Outside academic circles, the story of the Paston family is largely undiscovered by the general public. Yet their letters and landmarks are the living history of Norfolk. The aim of the National Heritage Lottery funded Paston Footprints project is to empower people to experience and connect with the Paston legacy.

We have created heritage walks and cycle rides to help people explore Norfolk's historic 'Paston Country'.  We invite everyone to help us tell the Paston story and bring it to more people by taking part in family activities and creative challenges


Meet the Pastons

Watch our short video overview of the Paston family and read more about the bold and enterprising Paston characters. You can explore the whole family with our annotated family tree.

A simple introduction to the Pastons for children is also available in our children's activities section.

Travel back in time and virtually explore Paston landmarks lost to time