In the 1420’s Oxnead became the principal home of the Paston family and they continued to live at Oxnead for over 350 years until 1732. The Pastons rose from humble origins to become one of the most eminent and possibly the richest family in Norfolk. They were Royalists and successive generations served in the Royal courts and Palaces and fought to defend the Monarchy. In the 16th century, Sir Clement Paston (who built Oxnead Hall)), was referred to by Henry V111 as his ‘champion’ and Elizabeth 1st called Sir Clement her ‘father’. Throughout the generations the Pastons were great patrons of the arts and collectors. Around 1665 they commissioned a large painting of the treasures they had collected on their Grand Tours known as ‘The Paston Treasures’ which now hangs in Norwich Castle Museum.
Also during the 17th century, Sir William Paston founded the North Walsham Grammar School which still exists today. Sir William’s son, Robert Paston was made the first Earl of Yarmouth, and his son, another Sir William, married Charles II’s natural daughter. In 1671 Charles II and his Queen were guests of the Paston family at Oxnead, and records document the lavish hospitality and extravagance of the occasion. The house was re-furbished for entertaining the King and Queen who enjoyed their visit saying that they felt ‘safe in the house of his friend’. Sadly, following the Kings visit, the Paston family ran into debt, and when Sir William Paston died in 1732 with no living male heir, Oxnead and its contents were sold by his Executors. Items from Oxnead are today scattered throughout Norfolk, the UK and the world. A number of the Paston family, including Sir Clement and his wife Alice, Katherine Paston, and Robert Paston are buried in Oxnead church.
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