Pillar of the Community
Thanks to a recent "private treaty" transaction I was able to acquire this rare Dorsetshire silver token, the undated (1811-12) Dorchester shilling, for my collection of Regency Period copper and silver tokens. This was the only issue from Dorchester in that 1811-1820 series and was struck in two varieties that differ in only the most trivial ways, such as size and location of dots, leaves, and ornaments.distinctions that are all too typical for the stuff I collect from this era. Look at them all over this token!
Obverse: Dorsetshire, Dalton 3 (RRR) and Davis 3 (R.r.).As shown on the obverse, this shilling was issued by the Dorchester Bank, a partnership formed by Robert Cox and William Merle, precious metals refiners and goldsmiths based in London, backing their local representative, the noted Dorsetshire landholder and politician Robert Pattison. Pattison served two terms as Mayor of Dorchester even as this shilling was in circulation there.
Now to St. Dunstan (909-988 a.d.), who is featured on the reverse. Wikipedia's briefest of summaries describes his ecclesiastical resume as follows: "Saint Dunstan was an English bishop. He was successively Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, Bishop of Worcester, Bishop of London, and Archbishop of Canterbury, later canonised as a saint. His work restored monastic life in England and reformed the English Church."
Also shamelessly excerpted from Wikipedia: "Dunstan became patron saint of English goldsmiths and silversmiths because he worked as a silversmith making church plate. The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church mark his feast day on 19 May. Dunstan is also honoured in the Church of England and in the Episcopal Church on 19 May. . He was the most popular saint in England for nearly two centuries, having gained fame for the many stories of his greatness, not least among which were those concerning his famed cunning in defeating the Devil."
The Encyclopedia Britannica provides a different birth year but adds the royal connection in its blurb on St. Dunstan: "Saint Dunstan of Canterbury, (born 924, near Glastonbury.), English abbot, celebrated archbishop of Canterbury, and a chief adviser to the kings of Wessex, who is best known for the major monastic reforms that he effected."
Reverse:As for the token's reverse, note Satan's face hovering behind Dunstan in the image above, as well as the smithy's tongs in the Archbishop's left hand. James O'D. Mays provides an excellent description and explanation of all that in his book Tokens of Those Trying Times: "Although St. Dunstan at first may seem an inappropriate design for a token of Dorset's county town, it was a natural choice for the Dorchester Bank given Cox's and Merle's gold refining business, and the membership of both men in the Goldsmith's Company. St. Dunstan was not only the patron saint of the Company, but of goldsmiths in general. One day, while working at his forge, the Devil appeared. Not at all put off by this sudden intrusion, St. Dunstan is supposed to have seized the Devil by his nose with the red hot tongs and led him off the premises. It is this legend which the rare Dorchester shilling portrays."
Two depictions of this encounter between St. Dunstan and the Devil from illuminated manuscripts of the 12th (left) and 14th centuries. Source for further information provided at the bottom of each image shown here.Canonized in 1629, St. Dunstan's grave is at Canterbury Cathedral. In the Catholic (Roman and Anglican) tradition, he is now recognized as the patron saint of blacksmiths; goldsmiths; locksmiths; musicians; silversmiths; bellringers; Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island, Canada); and Stepney, UK. An excellent online biography of St. Dunstan the religious figure can be found here.
I never pay too much for my tokens...but every now and then I may buy one a little too soon.