Legend has it that in the early 1500s, a violent storm in the Borrowdale area of Cumberland led to trees being uprooted and the discovery of a strange black material underneath. This material turned out to be graphite, and shepherds began using it to mark their sheep.
A cottage industry of pencil making soon developed, culminating in the formation of the UK's first pencil factory in 1832. The factory has had various owners in its 178 year history, becoming the Cumberland Pencil Company in 1916. The Lakeland children's range was launched in 1930, followed by the Derwent brand of fine art pencils in 1938.
In 1980 the then Managing Director realised that people were fascinated by the history of pencils and how they were made and the idea for the Museum was born. It was constructed in the former factory canteen building and advertisements were placed in newspapers seeking artefacts and memorabilia. The famous Pencil Museum van, a 1954 Morris J Type, was found hidden under rubbish in the warehouse, brought out and restored, it now has pride of place at the front of the Museum.
In May 1981 the museum opened its doors to take visitors on a fascinating journey through the unique history of The Cumberland Pencil Company, the story of pencil making and now welcomes over 80,000 visitors a year!