Sir William Paston opened his free Grammar School in 1606 for “the training, instructing and bringing up of youth in good manners, learning and the true fear, service and worship of almighty God whereby they might become good and profitable members in the Church and Commonwealth”. Paston School was originally for 40 boys from north east Norfolk, not just within the town. A new School House was built in 1765, the one seen today, and by then around 70 boys were taught.
Paston school has a fine record of educating its pupils but perhaps its two
most famous did not stay here very long.
Horatio Nelson was born at Burnham Market and came to the school with his brother William in 1769. However, after just two years 13 year-old Horatio set out on the start of his legendary naval career.
Stephen Fry grew up near Reepham. He had a rather troubled education,
and was dismissed from Paston school. Despite this his career as an actor,
comedian and writer have been very successful.
In addition to Admiral Lord Nelson, the school can boast many a fine scholar, including Archbishop Tenison, who crowned both Queen Anne and George I.
The School is now a Sixth Form College for the local area, and the founder’s elaborate tomb, which he himself had built before he died, can be seen inside the Parish Church.
In the early part of the 20th century an archaeological dig within the grounds of the school found foundations of what were thought to be a small monastery, perhaps the town’s cell of the Abbey of St Benets.