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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 an entrepreneurial spirit, the Paston family broke through the social barriers of the day to rise from humble country origins to the inner circle of the Tudor and Stuart courts. 


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 to dig deep into the story:

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Meet the Pastons

The Paston letters reveal a fascinating family of bold, enterprising and intelligent people. You can watch a short video (4mins, 19 secs) overview and explore the family relationships using our animated family tree.

You can also read more about the gutsy Paston women and support our 'Rebel Women' campaign to write them back into history. 

A free and accessible booklet introduction to the Pastons is available to download as a PDF (also available as a print copy in many Paston locations)

A simple introduction to the Pastons for children is available.


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 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

We have also use innovative methods to enable people to travel back in time and virtually explore Paston landmarks lost to time 

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Dr Karen Smyth, Paston Footprints' Director and Associate Professor in Medieval and Early Modern Literature, UEA

“Making the Paston letters more accessible is the reason for this project. The claim to fame about the Paston letters are they are the non-official voice of the Middle Ages, the history beyond kings and queens. It was time to return this history of the people to the people”

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