Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cumberland Pencil Museum Turns 30

This morning I found the following link to a story covering this past weekend's 30th Anniversary Celebration of the Cumberland Pencil Museum. The museum is located in the heart of England's Cumbria lake district in the town of Keswick in what was formerly the canteen of the Cumberland Pencil factory. The factory itself was relocated to a new state of the art facility 3 years ago in the town of Lillyhall.

Not just an interesting place for kids, the museum celebrates the history of the pencil and has a number of fun an quirky aspects to it. It's location and that of Cumberland Pencil was originally due to discovery of natural graphite in the region and mining of the graphite. Today the region is best known as a tourist destination and the museum itself hosts 80,000 visitors per year.

I had the opportunity to visit the museam with my wife and son Philip in 1998 when he was 11, long before he joined us at CalCedar to work in our Pencils.com e-commerce operations. This was during a business visit to Cumberland relative to our Cedar slat supply for thier pencil production. Given the long business relations between our companies he also had the opportunity to get his first ever tour of a real pencil factory in addition to the museum itself. Something of great fascination for any young person and adult alike.

The article covers some interesting aspects of the museum two of which of particular relevance to me was the mention of the Charles & Diana Royal Wedding Commemorative pencil tin and in particular the secret "spy pencil" produced by Cumberland during World War II which housed a hidden compass and map inside and was used by aviators to provide a route home in the event of being shot down. The article mentions that there are only 10 of these in existence. Not sure if that is really the case, but if so that's quite remarkable as we happen to have one here in California. It's part of a special commemortive gift set of Cumberland Pencils produced for one of the company's anniversaries and was given as a gift to my father by the Managing Director of Cumberland many years ago. I also have a Charles and Diana Royal Wedding pencil in my own collection as well, though I don't know if this was part of the Cumberland set or was produced by Chambers Pencil Company, a former producer of novelty and advertising pencils in England.

Coincidentally, it's my other son Thomas' birthday today. Happy Birthday T!


Anonymous said...

The "spy pencil" in your photo is a replica made for that special Borrowdale Collection Box...The map is of the Borrowdale Valley (not of Western Europe) - I don't think residents of the Keswick area were shooting down their own airplanes in WWII! Thanks for the posting!

WoodChuck said...

Good to know about the Replica! Thanks so much for the correction. I never looked at it that close as this set belongs to my father and I just had someone in the office take these photos to get the images up along with the post. Still a fascinating display complete with miniture Cumberland pencil delivery truck. I also have one of these miniature trucks that has the Eagle Pencil information on it.

Pencil Reviewer said...

The spy pencil reminded me of an idea I had long ago for stashing an aspirin or other small item inside of the ferrule of a Blackwing.

That museum is on my bucket list.