On the last Friday in January the trustees of the Charity of Thomas Oken and Nicholas Eyffler held their annual Feast in the Great Hall of the Lord Leycester Hospital.
According to custom the Feast is held to remember and celebrate the life of Thomas Oken, a mercer, Master of the Guild and first Chief Burgess of Warwick who left his considerable property portfolio in trust so that the income could benefit the townspeople of Warwick long after his death.
Oken himself made provision for the Feast in his will. As well as leaving money to pave the streets, pay the schoolmaster and make payments to the poor, a sum of £1.00 was to be paid annually for a feast “to make merry and remember Thomas and his wife Joan.” The vicar was also to receive 6s 8d for a sermon. Today the feast is preceded by a procession of trustees, dignitaries and townspeople who walk from the Court House to St Mary’s Church for the special service before gathering for the Feast at the Lord Leycester Hospital.
This year the trustees were delighted to welcome the Mayor of Stratford Upon Avon, Councillor Juliet Short. Stratford was also a beneficiary of Oken’s will and as a wool merchant Oken would most certainly have known Shakespeare’s father, William, a fellow merchant and civic dignitary.
This year’s toast to the ‘Pious Memory of Thomas Oken and Joan his wife’ was proposed by Chris White MP.