THE LIFE of Thomas Oken – one of Warwick’s greatest benefactors who died 450 years ago – is to be celebrated with a special service at St Mary’s Church.
Clive Mason, chairman of the Charity of Thomas Oken and Nicholas Eyffler, which was founded in 1571 and last year distributed more than £200,000 to Warwick causes, said the service – open to everyone – will begin at 7pm on Friday January 27.
Mr Mason continued: “It will be a wonderful service held in accordance with Thomas Oken’s wishes and everyone in the town is invited to come and enjoy the music and hymns. I would strongly encourage people to attend.”
Then, on July 29 (the date on which he died in 1573), the Thomas Oken feast will be held at Warwick Castle for invited guests, civic dignitaries and members of Court Leet, at which local historian Graham Sutherland will be the guest speaker.
Thomas Oken was a wealthy merchant who survived the turbulent reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. He was a public-spirited man who left much of his fortune to the town, including almshouses – and even today the charity administers 12 almshouses in Castle Hill and Bowling Green Street.
Mr Mason said the charity also makes significant grants every year for ‘relief in need’ in the town and that recent grants have included the Myton Hospice at Home service, Citizens Advice, Springfield MIND, The Parenting Project, Warwickshire College Group and the Lord Leycester Hospital.
Thomas Oken lived in Warwick during the reigns of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, a period of great religious change with all the social upheaval that this brought in its wake.
A mercer, who made a comfortable fortune, he devoted his talents to the service of his town and his fellow citizens. He was a public-spirited man, heavily involved in local government and of deep religious conviction. He was the last master of the Guild of Holy Trinity and St George, which was dissolved in 1546.
Between Michaelmas 1544 and May 15th 1545, the date of the grant of the municipal charter to Warwick, he conducted the difficult negotiations with Henry VIII’s commissioners which secured for the people of Warwick a substantial part of the church and guild endowments, thereby preventing the worst effects of subsequent legislation by the Crown.
He was one of the principal burgesses named in the charter and was bailiff from 1557 to 1558 remaining a member of the corporation until his death on July 29 1573.
In his will, from his personal fortune, he arranged among other things, for the payment of the salary of the schoolmaster, annual payments to the poor, the paving of certain streets, the repairing of the bridge, the wages of the herdsmen and the beadle, the repairing of the wells, and the provision of the alms houses for six people. Such provisions as are applicable today are carried out by Oken’s Charity including the building and maintenance of the almshouses.
Thomas Oken died on July 29 at his home in Castle Street.
For more information about the charity visit www.thomasoken.org.uk