A fascinating find from Dunstable’s past really is a “jewel” in the town’s history.
I’m talking about the Dunstable Swan Jewel, of course.
And it was a talking point again last week, when the lovely livery badge was under discussion on Twitter.
Novelist Anne O’Brien (my maiden name but no relation) tweeted a link to her Facebook chat about the delightful discovery, along with a picture of the beauteous ‘badge’.
And she tweeted excitedly: “What a magnificent memento of times past!”
If all of this means nothing to you, let me shed a little light on the mystery.
The Dunstable Swan Jewel is now in the British Museum.
But it was found by the late Maxene Amey, during a Manshead Archaeological Society dig in Friary Field, Dunstable, in 1965. Historian Vivienne Evans then edited a booklet about it, called The Dunstable Swan Jewel.
The livery badge dates back to about AD 1400.
And the museum website says: “The Dunstable Swan Jewel is a livery badge of the highest order and quality.
“To wear such an item was a declaration of allegiance to a noble family or a king.
“It is made from opaque white enamel fused over gold, a technique known as émail en ronde bosse, that developed in Paris in the second half of the 14th century.
“The chain and coronet attached to the swan’s neck are also of gold. The emblem of the swan was very popular among nobles eager to demonstrate their descent from the Swan Knight of courtly romance.
“The most notable English family of the 14th century to use this symbol was that of De Bohun. The swan was adopted by the House of Lancaster when Henry of Lancaster married Mary de Bohun in 1380.
“When Henry became King Henry IV in 1399, the swan badge became associated with the Prince of Wales.”
According to the website, it is the only known surviving example of this type of badge.
The badge probably belonged to a prominent supporter of a rich and influential family. What a terrific tale.
And what a great excuse to head to the British Museum for a spot of ‘swanning around’...
A reader tells me Dunstable was featured on BBC Four’s Britain on Film, clips from bygone times, on October 8.
The programme included a selection of things to do for free in the Sixties. Steady now.
Footage included people standing on the M1 motorway watching cars whizz by, with no central barrier, just a grass strip.
He tells me Dunstable Downs was featured, with vehicles parked haphazardly here and there on the grass.
The reader writes: “Some are quite a way down the scarp face for that little bit better view as there is plainly no organised car parking arrangement other than a free-for-all.”
And he adds: “The gliders are being launched by winch as the spectators are seen wearing sports jackets and ties.” We knew how to make our own fun in those days!
Tea At The Ritz (Priory-Style) was served at the Priory Church, Dunstable, as part of its 800th anniversary fun.
There was a glass of sparkling wine on arrival and Palm Court-style musical entertainment. And the Rector, the Rev Richard Andrews, took on a sparkling new role – as a ‘wine waiter’.
This ritzy event sounds like just my cup of tea...