Derwent: History of the Brand

With a heritage dating back to 1832, Derwent’s innovation comes from a deep understanding of the needs and requirements of artists. Perfecting the art of pencil manufacturing in the Lake District for generations, the Derwent wide range of pencils is synonymous with quality and craftsmanship. Artistry is threaded through the core of every Derwent product to deliver world class artists’ materials at every stage of the creative journey.

The discovery of graphite in the Borrowdale Valley and the birth of pencil making in Keswick are a heritage of which the brand are rightly proud. The story goes that in the early 1500s there was a violent storm in the Borrowdale valley. Shepherds went out to tend their sheep, and they found an uprooted tree in one of the fields. Under the roots of the tree was a black substance. At first they tried to burn it thinking it was coal, but it did not burn – it did, however, mark their hands! The shepherds then used the substance to mark their sheep. This was the first discovery of Graphite, known locally as WAD. Over time the graphite substance was carved in rectangular pieces and wrapped with sheep’s skin as a primitive marker, this was the first style of pencil.

The Cumberland Pencil Company created its first pencil in 1832, and the first Derwent fine art colour pencil was introduced in 1938. The Derwent Pencil Museum still stands on the site of the original factory in Keswick, while the Derwent state of the art manufacturing facility is now based a short distance away in Workington.

Derwent continue to evolve, not only to improve their extensive range of artists’ pencils, but also to introduce new innovative products to enhance our customers’ experience and artistic opportunities.

As a company, Derwent is also interested in sustainability, having reduced their energy consumption within the factory, recycling their sawdust, and using sustainable resources wherever possible. They have also been awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for their unique solvent-free paint application system, which has greatly improved the air quality.

Derwent aim to be the world’s leading manufacturer of quality art materials, whilst caring for their customers, colleagues, and the environment. 

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