Derwent has been making pencils in Cumbria since 1832, and we think we've perfected the art.
Derwent has a long and distinguished history, and we're naturally very proud of it. At the same time, however, we have a reputation for innovative products that excite and inspire artists worldwide.

  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 175 year history, but became 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. Since then, a huge variety of artists’ materials has been developed, from traditional to highly innovative. The product range may have expanded beyond recognition but our commitment to excellence remains the same.

Derwent combines traditional pencil making skills, perfected by generations of local craftsmen, with state of the art manufacturing techniques. We pioneered many of the processes now in common use and our reputation for quality and consistency is unsurpassed in the art materials world. Let’s take a closer look at how Derwent pencils are made today.


Derwent has a long and distinguished heritage, stretching back to the discovery of graphite in the Borrowdale area in the early 1500s. Our pencils have been made in Cumbria since 1832 and generations of local craftsmen have used their unique skills to perfect the art of pencil making.

We are very proud of our heritage because it has made us who we are today. The expertise we have gained over so many years has enabled us to develop the finest range of art materials in the world and we're even more proud of that.

How Pencils were made

The basic principles of pencil making have remained the same over the centuries, although production methods have obviously changed considerably. Essentially, a colour or graphite strip is sandwiched between two pieces of wood then cut and finished into the shape required. This is now almost a fully automatic process whereas at one time every single stage was carried out by hand. Let’s take a look back at how pencils were made in our factory long ago.



Quality is our trademark and we have a clearly defined quality management system that complies with the internationally recognised standard, ISO 9001. In effect, this means that we put quality first in everything we do, from purchasing the raw materials to despatching the finished products. Consistency is a key factor in our success and continuous monitoring of our quality systems ensures the consistent and enduring quality of our products.


Our factory is situated in one of the most beautiful parts of England, in the heart of the Lake District National Park. We are therefore probably more aware than most how important it is to protect the world around us. We comply with the internationally recognised environmental management standard, ISO 14001 and are committed to ensuring that our materials, processing, products and services have minimal environmental impact. For example, in 2002 we were awarded a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for developing a unique, solvent free paint application system which has greatly improved the air quality in this production area.

We have also been awarded the BOSS (British Office Supplies and Services) Federation Environmental Award for the past 11 years.
This comprehensive award scheme covers a wide range of environmental issues, such as reducing energy consumption and improving our employees’ working conditions.

Health and Safety

The health and safety of our employees is, of course, paramount. In 2006, we were awarded the prestigious RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) President’s Award for Occupational Safety and Health. The President’s award is only open to those companies who have already achieved 10 consecutive RoSPA Gold Awards. The RoSPA awards scheme covers all aspects of health and safety, including good health and safety management systems, compliance with legislation, continually improving health and safety performance, employee training and commitment. Actively involving our employees in these issues through training, health and safety audits, meetings and regular communication is one of our greatest strengths.

Derwent Pastel Sticks

Derwent Aquatone Watercolor

Derwent Artist Colored Pencil

Derwent Charcoal Pencil

Derwent Coloursoft Colored Pencil

Derwent Drawing

Derwent Inktense

Derwent Metallic Color Pencil

Derwent Pastel Pencil

Derwent Signature Color Pencil

Derwent Signature Watercolor Pencil

Derwent Studio Colored Pencil

Derwent Watercolor Pencil

Derwent Sketch Notebook & Journals