A poet will celebrate one of Lewes’ culinary heroes in this year’s OctoberFeast.

Jeremy Page, a lecturer at Sussex University as well as scribe, explains William Verrall introduced gourmet French cuisine to the UK in the eighteenth century before he went bankrupt.

Verrall, the former landlord of The White Hart in Lewes, had been apprenticed to the Duke of Newcastle’s cook, the Frenchman St Clouet.

St Clouet’s approach inspired Verrall’s recipes which combine French and English traditions.

“He is a bit of hero and a significant figure in the evolution of cooking and eating in Britain,” explains Page, who recently released his sixth collection of poetry, Closing Time.

“Verrall was inspired by the great master Clouet and he was keen to put into practice what he learnt. He acquired a reputation as someone who was doing exciting stuff in the kitchen and experimenting in a new way.”

Page, who will celebrate the man with his play Verrall Of The White Hart, believes it is possible to draw a line from Verrall down to key 20th century British cookery writers such as Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson.

“David owes a debt to Verrall in terms of doing exciting things rather than the food people from other countries tend to associate with the British: lacking in flavour, over-cooked, under-prepared.”

Page was pointed to Verrall’s story by John Kenward, who Nigella Lawson once said “cooks like an angel”. Kenward ran the Lewes institution Kenward’s for ten years.

“John asked if I would be interested in creating a play out of the preface of William Verrall’s Cookery Book. When I looked at the preface I saw the poetry in his language of food and that he was witty and I knew it could work.”

Page combined the little-known recipe book with historical research and Kenward’s aim to reveal Verrall “as a benign presence, popular with townspeople and with the great and good alike.”

“He was on a mission to bring good food to Britain and, in particular, to Lewes.

“The tragedy is Verrall ended his life bankrupt, and nobody knows why.”

Verrall of The White Hart, The White Hart, High Street, Lewes, Saturday, September 27 and Sunday, September 28, Starts 6.45pm.

£10 perfprmance only, £25 including dinner. Call 01273 301444.