While we are enjoying* this extended period of warm weather here in the UK it is good to get out and about. I fear all too soon we will be saying ‘Do you remember the summer of 2018?’ Much as we used to say ‘Remember the summer of ’76?’ (you perhaps have to be longer in the tooth for the latter … check with your parents … grandparents).
So at the invitation of my friend KS and her son AB I jumped on one of my favourite buses – you guessed it Stagecoach 555 – to Keswick with one destination in mind.
It is years since I visited this little gem of a museum and in the meantime it has moved out of the old factory site – production has now moved to Workington a short-ish bus ride away – to a purpose built unit in the old factory grounds.
If you wondered where pencils came from ponder no more! The first pencil was made in Keswick, here in good old Cumbria – once called Cumberland around these parts – over three centuries ago. Glad they have kept the Pencil Museum in Keswick as it is ever popular with visitors of all ages and it seems only right to keep it in the birthplace of the pencil.
For the outing I became part of KSs family (ticket) and enjoyed the delights within for free. The staff were super friendly, we all got pencils (which we kept) and opted to share a quiz sheet.
We crouched through the replica graphite mine adjusting our eyes to the darkness and watching out for the ‘miners’ frozen in their perpetual task of extracting graphite for our beloved HBs. Then all was light as we emerged into the bright and airy exhibits’ hall.
Keswick Pencil Museum boasts many quirky artefacts. Such as ….
The longest pencil in the world. It is true, it is verified by that bible of such peculiar facts The Guinness Book of Records. There is even a certificate to prove it:
Along with the huge are the small. There is a fascinating display showing how MI5 commissioned specially hollowed out pencils – to carry maps – topped with rubbers (erasers) that hid a handy compass. I learnt a lot about the humble pencil: how many are made a year (lots and lots); what sort of wood is used (clue: it comes from a tree) and what was used as an eraser before the rubber (who would have thunk it!).
Amongst the displays were many wonderful collections of pencils
The damage to this lovely old example tells a more recent tale of Keswick’s history. It shows how high the flood waters rose during Storm Desmond in 2015.
Now to another gem…literally
To commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012 Derwent crafted a special Diamond Jubilee Pencil. Only two were made one was presented to the Queen (money always goes to money!) and the other is displayed at Keswick.
The Diamond Jubilee Pencil is a work of great skill. It is made from graphite taken from the original mine and was crafted by means of the traditional methods used before 1832. To top it off the crown is encrusted with 60 diamonds supported by white gold lilies to symbolise royalty. KS and AB wondered whether the Queen uses hers to write her shopping lists. I do hope so…I hope she writes all sorts of lists,’tis the simple pleasure of us humble folk!
We finished our tour with one of the Calvert Trust sheep which was commissioned by Derwent and formed part of the Herdwick Trail in 2016. Derwent’s sheep was decorated to resemble a dry-stone wall. A very colourful wall! each of the ‘stones’ were coloured using Derwent’s Inktense blocks and the lines between them were made with Inktense pencils and blocks.
One final look back:
before browsing the wonderful shop, drooling over the colours, pencils, brushes, pastel blocks and inks and then toddling over the road to Kat’s Kitchen for some cold drinks supped while viewing the beautiful landscape that surrounds Keswick.
I opened with a part quote from Vincent Van Gogh in the title. To close I bring you one from Stan Laurel:
You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must always be led!
Until next we meet
* The sunny weather is not bringing joy to all. My heart goes out to the numerous firefighters, soldiers and volunteers that are working day and night in awful conditions on moors and heaths to douse and control numerous fires. Mx