Sir William Paston founded his school in North Walsham in 1606. Sir William died in 1610 and the Trustees created by his Will, have continued to support education in Norfolk in the four centuries since.
Paston began life 400 years ago as Sir William Paston’s Free School, essentially a grammar school for boys, which sent pupils to Gonville College, Cambridge from an early date. Most of its pupils boarded at the school. The coming of railways saw the size of the school grow rapidly given North Walsham’s links to the network and so began the tradition of daily travel to attend the school, and incidentally the development of North Walsham as a centre for education serving the area. The North Walsham High School for Girls, the grammar school for girls in North Norfolk, was created around the turn of the Twentieth Century to complement the work of Paston.
The Twentieth Century brought radical changes to education in Britain, with the 1902 and 1944 Education Acts. Paston became part of the education system provided by the Local Authority, first as a voluntary aided and then as a voluntary controlled grammar school for boys. In all guises pupils travelled to study at the Paston School from considerable distances and some students boarded until the 1950s.
In 1984 the Paston School merged with the North Walsham High School for Girls to become the present sixth form college, dedicated to working with young people aged 16-18. There have been many students who have gone on from the schools and indeed the College to figure prominently on the local and national stage, in so many different fields. These are too numerous to list but two stand out from the distant past:-
- Thomas Tenison (1637-1715), Archbishop of Canterbury (1695-1715) during the reigns of William and Mary, Queen Anne and George I.
- Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) who was at the school from 1768-1771 immediately prior to joining the Royal Navy.
And more recently:-
- Baroness Shepherd (former Secretary of State for Education)
- BBC TV journalist Carole Walker
- Colonel James Woodham MC, Royal Anglian Regiment, awarded the Military Cross in peace time in 2006 for gallantry
- Professor David Chiddick CBE, lately Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln
- Charlie Hall, Chief Constable, Hertfordshire Constabulary
- Stephen Fry, British actor