St Dunstan

St Dunstan’s College in Catford, London, is a school attended by various members of my family since the early 1900s. Recently my Granny told me that St Dunstan was the patron saint of silversmiths. I hadn’t known that!

St. Dunstan was born 909 and died 19 May 988 AD. There is a full story about him on Wikipedia, which tells us that Dunstan became patron saint of English goldsmiths and silversmiths because he worked as a silversmith making church plate while he was living as a monk at Glastonbury Abbey, where he took holy orders in 943 AD. He is also the patron saint of blacksmiths, locksmiths and musicians.

His Feast Day is 19 May, which is why, before the restoration, the yearly span of London Assay Office hallmarks ran from 19 May one year to 18 May the next, not the calendar year. This was changed at the restoration of Charles II in 1660 so that the hallmarking year began on the King’s birthday, 29 May.

There is a story that Dunstan nailed a horseshoe to the Devil’s hoof when he was asked to re-shoe the Devil’s horse. This caused the Devil great pain, and Dunstan only agreed to remove the shoe and release the Devil after he promised never to enter a place where a horseshoe is over the door. This is claimed as the origin of the lucky horseshoe.

Also, according to a late 11th-century legend, the Devil is said to have tempted Dunstan and to have been held by the face with Dunstan’s tongs; hence blacksmith’s tongs have become a symbol of St Dunstan.

Thanks to my little granny for bringing this interesting fact to my attention. I wonder what her dad (my great grandfather), who was a blacksmith, made of all that!

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