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Page last updated at 13:26 GMT, Thursday, 23 September 2010 14:26 UK
Cumbria's pencil making history

A simple object uploaded to the History of the World website gives a unique insight into an important part of Cumbria's past.

The graphite pencil, submitted to the site by an artist as an essential tool of their daily work, points to a Cumbrian industry which dates back over 175 years.

This object is important to me as a designer as it allows me to be creative, it's my tool for success, to get ideas from my head into the real world.
A History of the World website

Local legend suggests that a violent storm in the Borrowdale area at the beginning of the 1500s resulted in trees being uprooted and the subsequent discovery of a strange black material underneath.

This material was graphite, and being a rural community, it was soon used by Cumbrian shepherds to mark their sheep.

A cottage industry of pencil making began in the area and this then evolved over time to create the UK's first pencil factory in 1832.

The Cumberland Pencil Factory was set up in 1916, and it is the rich history of this industry that is now on display at the Cumberland Pencil Museum.

Nowadays, visitors can enter the museum through a replica of the Seathwaite mine where the graphite was first discovered all those years ago.

Pencils are not made from lead, as commonly thought, but from a mix of graphite powder and clay
During Elizabeth I's reign, Borrowdale graphite was sold to the Spanish on the black market to make canon ball moulds
It wasn't until 1832 that pencil production began in Keswick

The Cumberland Pencil Company relocated to the Lillyhall Industrial Estate near Workington in 2008 because the existing factory was not modern enough.

Construction had begun on that original site in the 1920s and was finally completed after WWII.

The Pencil Museum remains on the original site in Keswick and is open to the public 362 days each year.

This simple object uploaded to the History of the World website not only evokes a strong sense of history, but also celebrates and industry that has employed Cumbrian workers for nearly two centuries.


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