Much has been written in ‘An Eye on the Past’ about the coming of Christianity to Sussex from 680AD. The county was the last area of Britain to accept Christianity, sticking to its Pagan beliefs and rituals for perhaps another century after everywhere else had abandoned them.

One of those instrumental in the conversion process was Saint Dunstan (canonised in 1029) who worked his way up from humble beginnings to become Archbishop of Canterbury from 960 until 978. He founded the church at Mayfield during his first year of office, and among many talents, was a metalworker, and his workshop, according to tradition, was in the village, where he fashioned all sorts of useful items from iron, bronze, silver or gold.

A great story has Dunstan working away one day, when he’s visited by none other than the Devil, disguised as an attractive young woman. Clearly, he/she had seduction in mind, then corruption, planning to end his Christian, missionary ways. But the disguise didn’t fool Dunstan, who glimpsed a cloven hoof among the folds of the dress. He instantly seized some red-hot tongs from his furnace, grasped the Devil’s nose with them, pulling him towards the door and pushing him out into the street. We’re told the Devil flew off howling towards Tunbridge Wells, where he plunged his nose into a spring to cool it down. And of course, the water took on the iron taste from the tongs which it continues to have today – the town's famous spa water.

St Dunstan, as the story goes,

Once pulled the Devil by his nose.

With red-hot tongs that made him roar,

That he was heard three miles or more.

Today, Mayfield’s village sign still incorporates the ‘tonging’ scene. All nonsense?

Treasured at the Convent of the Holy Child Jesus (today, the premises of Mayfield School) were St Dunstan’s anvil and the famous tongs. You used to be able to buy a souvenir postcard of them, as seen here. A more recent photograph on the school's website has them in a formal display case minus the anvil.

Another legend about Dunstan is that the Devil (a persistent fellow) asked him to re-shoe his cloven hooves, hoping for another opportunity to work his wiles on the great man. But Dunstan deliberately made a botched job of the nailing, causing the Devil great pain when walking. Dunstan said he would only remove them when the Devil promised never to enter premises with a horseshoe displayed on the door or wall. This he grudgingly agreed to and is still the basis for the idea that horseshoes are lucky.