Sir William Paston, through inheritance from a number of family members, became a very wealthy man during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. Sir William provides an important link between the family in the early part of the 16th century to the beginning of the 17th century. Sir William used his wealth to build a fine house, great barn and alms houses at Paston, also founding the famous Paston School in North Walsham in 1606 (where Nelson later attended). Sir William lived quietly in Norfolk compared to his Uncles Thomas and Admiral Clement Paston, both of whom achieved fame and favour at the Tudor Court. Sir William provides both narrative and insight into the Reformation and the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth.
William’s father, Clement, was a man of humble birth and status who had the vision to secure an education for his son. William made the most of the opportunity and after his training as a lawyer at the Inns of Court in London, he became a Sergeant at Law and subsequently a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. His success as a lawyer earned him the title ‘The Good Judge’ and brought him many estates, including ownership of Cromer, land and property at Oxnead, Gresham, West Beckham, Norwich and the development of a manor and manor house at Paston. By marriage to heiress Agnes Berry, William also gained property in Hertfordshire and Suffolk. Judge William was involved in a number of high profile cases, both in London and locally through his work for the Bishop of Norwich. Judge William’s power and wealth set the family on an upward path but also left an inheritance that would prove to be a mighty challenge for his young son John.