Annual feast to celebrate one of Warwick’s most benevolent men

Clive Mason, the chairman of the Thomas Oken Charity with Dr Ann Thurley and the Rev Vaughan Roberts by the Thomas Oken plaque in St Mary's Church, Warwick.

Clive Mason, the chairman of the Thomas Oken Charity with Dr Ann Thurley and the Rev Vaughan Roberts by the Thomas Oken plaque in St Mary's Church, Warwick.

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An annual feast to honour one of Warwick’s biggest benefactors will take place this month.

The Thomas Oken feast is organised by the charity of Thomas Oken and Nicholas Eyffler, which was founded in 1571. The charity was set up after Thomas Oken left his estate to the poor people of the town.

Thomas Oken lived through the reigns of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, but still managed to amass a small fortune and devoted himself to serving the town.

In his will Mr Oken, who died in 1573, set aside money for housing, repairing the town’s bridge and to pay for an annual feast in his honour.

The Thomas Oken and Nicholas Eyffler charity was founded in 1571 and is one of Warwick’s oldest charities.

Today it owns 14 alms houses in Castle Hill and Bowling Green Street and makes significant grants most years for ‘relief in need’ in the town.

Recent grants have included Myton Hospice, Lord Leycester Hospital and Warwick Apprenticing Charity.

To mark 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare the Mayor of Stratford, Juliet Short, has been invited to attend the annual Thomas Oken’s Feast, to be held on Jaunary 27.

It is believed that Mr Oken, who was Mayor of Warwick in the 1560s, was a friend of Shakespeare’s father, the then Mayor of Stratford.

Clive Mason, chairman of Thomas Oken trustees, said: “Thomas Oken left a bequest of £40 to Stratford-upon-Avon for them to hold their own Oken’s Feast.

“The Warwick feast was resurrected in 1952, to which the Stratford Mayor was invited, and we have now revived that to celebrate our link with Shakespeare, following the 400th anniversary of his death.”

The Mayor of Stratford and Warwick Mayor Christine Cross will be attending a special service, which will begin with the traditional parade of trustees, dignitaries and townspeople from the Court House to St Mary’s church.

The church service, which begins at 7pm is held in accordance with Thomas Oken’s wishes and everyone in the town is invited to come and enjoy the music and hymns.

The service will then be followed by the feast in the Guild Hall at the Lord Leycester Hospital.