Cumberland Pencil Museum

(See also Keswick)

Cumberland pencil museum by Donna MillsGraphite (black lead) was discovered on Seathwaite Fell in Borrowdale in 1555. Formed by extreme pressure and heat, its value was soon recognized, but not for pencil making. During Queen Elizabeth Ist reign it served as material for making moulds for cannon balls. It was so important that it was stolen and smuggled. Unfortunately, the deposits played out by 1833, and graphite is now imported to Keswick.

Pencil making began as a cottage industry, and it wasn't until 1832 that the first pencil factory opened in Keswick. By 1851 there were four pencil factories in the town. In 1916 the factory now surviving was purchased by the present owners, the Cumberland Pencil Company. In 1930 the first 24 colours of pencil were developed with the range expanding to 72 colours by 1945. Specialty pencils and pastels came along in the 1980's.

Cumberland pencil museum interior by Kevin BoydVisits to the factory itself are not allowed. However, a video presentation at the Cumberland Pencil Museum, next to the factory, explains the manufacture of the Derwent pencils. Another video shows artistic techniques using the company's products.

The Museum is entered through a replica graphite mine. Displays and photographs demonstrate the history of graphite mining in Borrowdale and the manufacture of pencils from the California cedar casing to the core to the painting on the exterior. Machinery, once used to make pencils, is also on display.Cumberland pencil museum van by Mike Forsyth

The Cumberland Pencil Museum is located at Southey Works, Greta Bridge, Keswick on the A591/A66.
Tel: 017687 73626
Open year round, 9.30am-5pm (last entry 4pm). Extended summer hours. Closed Dec. 25, 26 and Jan. 1 Car Park Gift Shop

Note: Please check opening times and dates before visiting in case of changes.

Photos courtesy of Donna Mills , Kevin Boyd , Mike Forsyth.

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