Langdale Pikes from Loughrigg

Cumberland Pencil Museum

Southey Works
Main Street
Cumbria CA12 5NG

Tel:- 017687 73626

Located on the site of what was reputed to be the worlds first Pencil Factory, which relocated to Workington in 2008, the Derwent Pencil Museum is a small attraction devoted entirely to the pencil. The museum explores the history of the pencil, from the discovery of Graphite in the Borrowdale region in the early 16th century, to the modern day.

Visitors enter this museum through a replica graphite mine, to learn of the development of the pencil from a simple writing tool, to a medium for serious artists with the introduction of coloured pencils. Also covered is the role played by the factory in World War 2, with the design and manufacture of a secret gadget pencil for use by agents behind enemy lines.

The World's Longest Coloured Pencil is proudly on display, as are examples of pencils through the ages. The displays are supplemented with a programme of workshops and artist demonstrations. Children's interest is maintained in "The Kid's Zone" an area with games and competitions, all on a drawing theme, of course.

There is a well stocked shop, as well as a Coffee Shop, appropriately named "The Artisan Cafe".

Potted History

Borrowdale farmers had been using a soft black rock like substance to mark their sheep since the early part of the 16th century. The substance was Graphite, and over the next 200 years or so a small cottage industry grew up in the valley making an early form of drawing implement using wood as a means of stopping the graphite from crumbling away as it was used.

In 1832 the industrial revolution finally came to Keswick when a pencil factory was established. The factory had a number of different owners, becoming the Cumberland Pencil Company in 1916. The new owners set about modernising the old factory, replacing it with the current building in the early 1920s. Production continued on the site until 2008, when the main factory was relocated to Workington.

The museum was launched in 1981, occupying the former factory canteen building. As the Pencil Company had few items to exhibit, a campaign was launched to gather donations of artefacts and memorabilia from the public. An old morris van, which had been parked up unused and quietly rusting away in a warehouse, was renovated and placed at the front of the Museum.

In 2015 the museum was badly damaged by flooding following Storm Desmond, and a number of artifacts were lost. The new and improved version of the museum opened in JUne 2017, and remains a popular attraction in the Keswick area.


  • Exhibition and displays
  • Toilet and baby changing facilities
  • "Artisan" Coffee Shop
  • Shop
  • Disabled Access.

Estimated visit time

The Cumberland Pencil Museum is not large, and the range of exhibits not extensive since it covers the development of just one industry. The length of time taken to visit will depend largely on your level of interest and the make up of your party. Families with children will take longer to visit because of the kids activities on offer.


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