“ Address: Southey Works / Keswick / Cumbria / CA12 5NG / Tel: 44 (0) 17687 73626 „
The moment I found out I was going to the Lake District I knew I had to go to the pencil museum, I'm a bit of a 'nerd' and my favourite part of going back to school was always getting new stationery so I figured this place would be right up my street.
The pencil museum is situated in Keswick town centre and being a key attraction it is well signposted and easy to find. The outside doesn't look particularly like a museum though so keep your eyes peeled. The museum does have parking but we had parked in town so I cannot comment on the parking charges all I would say is if it is by the hour, you won't need many! We arrived prior to opening time and found several sheltered tables outside with paper and pencils, we assumed these were for children but had a go anyway (the less said about this the better, turns out I'm not very artistic!).
In short, not a lot. The museum itself is very small. We arrived at reception and paid the entrance fee. I have to say how wonderful the staff are here, we were greeted by a very friendly woman who gave us each a children's activity sheet (we are 23 and 25!) and a pencil museum pencil. I would advise people of all ages to get an activity sheet as it is fun to do and makes you pay more attention to the exhibits. I think if we weren't trying to fill in the activity sheets we would have skimmed through the museum in no time.
To get from reception to the exhibits you walk through a 'mine' complete with dummy miner, who to be honest, has seen better days. The museum takes you through the pencil making process, the history of the pencil and insight into the materials needed for pencil making in thorough detail. There are a few 'hands on' activities for children to do but nothing spectacular. The museum is also host to the worlds largest colour pencil, exciting isn't it? The downside is that the pencil is almost on the ceiling, you could potentially miss it and I really wanted my picture taken alongside it as I'm really small but that isn't possible how it's currently displayed so all in all a bit of a disappointment. There is a small darkened room in which a 10minute video on pencil making is repeatedly played, this isn't particularly entertaining but I thought it was interesting that the pencils made here were used to illustrate 'The Snowman'. There is also a 'drawing corner' which is a table and chairs with paper and pencils for children to do a bit of drawing.
You leave the museum via the shop, a crafty move to get some business but I found the products to be overpriced unless you are an artist and want to pay for the quality of course. There is also a small café on site which we didn't stop at but appeared to serve the usual tea and cake.
Overall this isn't a day out, it's an hour or two at most. I'm not sure if children would find this place entertaining but as adults with a childish sense of humour we really enjoyed it and I do know a lot more about pencils now!
9.30am - 5pm
Open everyday except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day.
Family Ticket £10.00
(2 Adults and 3 Children aged 5-16)
Adult £3.75/ Students £3.00
Concessions and children £2.50
Under 5's go free.
When holidaying in the Lake District last week one place I knew I had to visit whilst I was there was the pencil museum! When I was younger we visited the museum every year and therefore I just wanted to go again to bring back some memories.
==Where is it?==
The pencil museum is located in the town of Keswick. There is no parking for the museum itself but there is plenty nearby in pay and display.
==What is it?==
The pencil museum is basically a museum dedicated to pencils! It is built on the site of an old pencil factory and it is home to where the first pencil was produced. There is also the worlds largest pencil here. The factory itself has now been relocated but the museum still works closely with it, selling the pencils etc.
==Arriving at the museum==
Arriving at the museum we went straight through to admissions and paid our fees. The lady was very polite and friendly and gave us all a small free guide leaflet and a pencil each. You then progress through a tunnel like space to access the museum itself.
The museum is just one room but there is lots to see in it. If you read everything that is on display you could spend a good 45 minutes here. There is lots to see including pencils throughout time. There is a WWII display and also the worlds largest colour pencil is attatched to the roof. I was a bit disappointed this was on the roof as I remember when I was a child and there was a smaller worlds largest pencil I had my photo done with it every year and this isnt possible anymore for the children today. However, round the corner there is the older pencil.
There are a lot of display cabinets showing pencils throughout time. Some have real pencils and others have just pictures but there is lots to see. There is a seperate section showing clips from the film The Snowman because the pencils that were used for these illustrations were produced at the factory.
There is a small area in the corner where there are pencils and paper for children to sit down and draw. I have always thought this was a nice touch because it keeps children occupied and it also allows them to experience the museum for themselves.
==Shopping and Eating==
There is a shop full of art materials and we did buy a few bits in here. Many prices did seem quite high but the pencils produced are of good quality.
We did not go in the cafe but it looked like it served snacks like cake.
Child (under 16) £2.25
Senior Citizen £2.25
==Would I visit again?==
I'm undecided on this. I might do if it was a rainy day for something to do for half an hour but the pencil museum wasn't as good as I remember, though I hadnt been since I was young so maybe my memories going! The price is ok for a one off but I would not want to pay this much again as you can only spend about 45 minutes here.
Keswick is one of the most beautiful and tourist-friendly towns in The Lake District, home of many breathtaking views that have long made it a popular destination for those looking to get away from it all, as well as more mountaineering shops than anyone could possibly need. Bizarrely, the town also features some really inappropriate museums too.
To its credit, the Pencil Museum wasn't chosen randomly - unlike its close neighbour the James Bond Museum (yeah, Keswick - that place that's synonymous with 007). This museum is constructed out of a functional unit next to the much more impressive Cumberland pencil factory, where they make all those high quality pencil crayons that the kids at school who belonged to more well-off families than you did flaunted so proudly. You know, the pencils that were supposed to work like watercolour paint if you wet the nibs, but which ended up making your hands stink of graphite for seven years instead.
The company is proud of its contributions to the pencil industry, which led to the creation of this attraction - which proudly informs visitors that it is the only museum in the world dedicated entirely to the pencil. There is perhaps a reason for this.
Upon entering the Pencil Museum and paying the only slightly cheeky entrance fee of £3.50 (adult), visitors proceed through the only theme park-style exhibition, a replica of the Seathwaite mine were graphite was discovered, seemingly by a race of crumpled-faced sub-humans if the poorly maintained figure is anything to go by. Once this rather pointless embarrassment is out of the way, visitors are free to explore the compact museum, which features places to sit and draw (probably the best part, and while you could technically do this anywhere it's handy to have access to some slightly mangled pencil crayons). There are also 'interactive exhibits.'
Well alright, not really. There is an over-ambitious movie theatre though, which plays a 10-minute video ad nauseam demonstrating pencil production and showing some kids colouring things in, along with some non-celebrity opinions from what seems to be people who just like using Derwent watercolour pencils. The film concludes by playing an extended portion of Raymond Briggs' the Snowman, which was famously animated using the factory's pencils. It's a bit of a tenuous link though, and questionable justification for playing the excerpt hundreds of times each day, without any kind of commentary to try to make it more relevant.
You might think I've made the Pencil Museum sound a little boring so far, but I haven't even got to the main attraction yet. All the best museums have something of colossal proportions to wow audiences - whether it's a monstrous Tyrannosaur skeleton or gigantic turbines and steam engines - and what could be more exciting than seeing the world's largest functional coloured pencil firsthand? Well alright, it's enclosed in a case to protect its majesty, but it's still an impressive sight (it's 26 feet long, who's going to steal that? And how could they possibly make use of it without a giant colouring book?)
If this review seems a little sarcastic, I should confirm that I did enjoy my visit to the Pencil Museum on a recent break in Keswick, being fully aware even before we approached that I was not its target audience - indeed, from all the positive comments left in the visitor book it seems that kids find it both fun and educational (though strictly about pencils and nothing else).
The museum may be a little lacking in attractions and misguided in its reverence of pencil crayons, and essentially a front to sell loads of overpriced Derwent products in the gift shop that's as big as the museum itself, but it's a fun little attraction that makes Keswick a better place. I'd take it over the James Bond Museum any day. Did 007 have a pencil?
Well yes, he did actually, and it's on display in this museum. And you get a free souvenir pencil to lose on your own schedule.
The Cumberland Pencil Museum is clearly signposted all around Keswick, and is open from 9am to 4pm all year round except the usual Christmas holidays, on which days you can get your pencil crayon fix from watching the Snowman again and again and again.