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UPDATE: Final call to keep historic letter in Norfolk

09:19 13 June 2012

Letter from Sir John Fastolf to John Paston writter by William Worcester from the collection of the Norfolk historian Charles John Palmer; Photo credit: Christie

Letter from Sir John Fastolf to John Paston writter by William Worcester from the collection of the Norfolk historian Charles John Palmer; Photo credit: Christie's Auction Rooms.


A north Norfolk heritage society is making a last-ditch bid to keep a treasured 15th century letter in Norfolk - ahead of an auction today (Wednesday).

The words of the Paston Letter

Please yow to wete that the pryour and Convent of Norwych have wyth halden certeyn Rent for londes that they halden of me wythynne my maner of haylysdon and ys ii tapers of wax of ii lb wyght by the space of xviii yeere ... p[ray]yng yow to speke wyth the pryour ... and that ye lyke to meove hym to make me paym[en]t as hys dewtee ys, so as y have no cause to sewe [i.e. sue] farther and to doo as Justice requyryth ... y pr[a]y yow cosyn that y may speke wyth yow or [i.e. before] y ryde. and that or thrysday by the ferthyst and ther y shall tell you tydyngs off the parlem[en]t.

One of the famous Paston Letters is due to go on sale at Christie’s in London and members of Paston Heritage Society are urging people to come forward to help them raise the £3,000-£5,000 needed.

The bid will be lead by the Norfolk Records Office and the Society hope to support them in their bid.

Believed to have been written in 1454 the letter comes from the private collection of Norfolk historian Charles John Palmer and a note records its purchase in 1839 for two guineas.

Chairman of the society Jo Berry said it would be a “terrific asset” to see the letter brought to the Norfolk Records Office in Norwich and hoped a bidder would come forward to help them purchase the item.

She said: “It’s ridiculous that anyone from Norfolk who wants to see the Paston Letters has to trek down to London.

“The Pastons were the first recorded family to write to each other in English on paper. That’s a huge significance.”

The Paston Letters are a collection of papers consisting of the correspondence of members of the Paston family, and others connected with them, between the years 1422 and 1509

The letters include state papers and documents which reflects the general condition of England during that period.

But today, most of the famous Paston Letters are kept at the British Library, Bodleian Library and Cambridge University Library.

Seven lines long, the letter is from former Caister Castle owner Sir John Fastolf to his lawyer John Paston and is penned by Sir John’s secretary William Worcester.

It reveals a threat to sue a prior for rent owed after occupying land within his Hellesdon manor on the outskirts of Norwich.

Christie’s senior specialist for autograph manuscripts and letters, Thomas Venning, said it was extremely rare for one to come on the market, especially from this period.

He said: “It is quite unusual for any of the Paston letters to be in circulation and this is the first time this one has come on the market since 1839. It’s a real living slice of history from the period.”

He added that Christie’s had already had “some interest” and he thought the letter would sell well.

● If you would like to help support the bid for the letter please visit or call Lucy Care on 01263 720164 or Jo Berry on 01263 720743 for more details.

● Visit the website later to see how much the letter sold for.

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