Pens and Pencils

When I started school there were pencils which we learned to write with and pens which we were allowed to write with when we were a bit older, maybe seven or eight. Not much has changed. Except for the pens and, to a lesser extent, the pencils.

The only pens provided in my Primary School were the wooden handled dipping pens.

dip pen_webimage

china inkwells

desks with inkwell holes

The ink for the pens was held in little china inkwells which fitted into holes in the desks. Each morning the ink monitors would make up a big jug of ink using ink powder and water, fill a trayful of inkwells, then place an inkwell into each desk hole. The standard issue school ink was a shade called blue-black.  I hated the dullness of that colour and longed to write with a bright blue ink. Although the top year in our primary school (eleven year olds) were allowed to use their own pens, the headteacher loathed ball-points (biros) calling them ‘new-fangled rubbish’ and banned us from using them. If you were lucky enough to have your own fountain pen, and I got one for my eleventh birthday which saw me all the way through high school, you could use that in school. I would fill mine from a bottle of Quink at home so that I didn’t have to use school blue-black ink. Parker pens were the most desirable but most of us had the more affordable Platignum pens. There were no other types of pen apart from Dipping pens, fountain pens and biros. Fibre tips, toller ball, fine felt-tips, fibre tips all had yet to be invented or at least to become mainstream. I remember when Tempo pens arrived on the scene when I was a student (and still a fountain pen user) and I loved them! To this day I am still not a fan of writing in biro, preferring ink pens or pencil.


There isn’t as much to say about pencils. There is a vast array of colours and styles available now but the fundamental design hasn’t changed. I do remember we children being very excited in school when the teacher acquired a desk mounted pencil sharpener. What a joy to use! We all wanted to be pencil monitor and have the job of sharpening the class’ pencils first thing in the morning. These gadgets still exist, I have seen them in some classrooms in schools I worked in. The design hasn’t changed.

imagesdownloaddownload (1)

Then we come to colouring pencils or ‘crayons’. Again, the basic design remains unchanged. One well known brand I remember well is Lakeland. I loved the tins they came in with a Lakeland scene on the lid. Even the smallest tins of their crayons had the scenic image on the tin.


I didn’t know then but the reason they were called Lakeland was because they were manufactured in the Lake District. The Derwent pencil company began in 1832 in Keswick, Cumbria and remained well known for producing the finest pencils in the world. There is even a pencil museum in Keswick.

220px-keswick_pencil_museum_(geograph_5455667)  Keswick’s Pencil Museum.



As always, images are courtesy of Google Images and Wikipedia. If anyone objects to my use of any picture please contact me so that I can remove it.


11 thoughts on “Pens and Pencils

  1. I don’t remember ever using a pen in primary school, just pencils. In first grade, we learned to write with these big, fat pencils, which I hated because they were for babies. I was much happier when we graduated to normal grown-up pencils.

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  2. Yey, that brought back memories. I was an ink monitor, mixed the powder and poured it into inkwells. I can remember it being really messy, slow to dry too so blotting paper was essential. We loved Lakeland pencils and used to try to copy the picture.

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  3. I remember the smell of Quink to this day.(And those inkwells!) I was badly bullied in secondary school and somehow I associate that smell with ill-treatment, so it doesn’t exactly bring me good memories. That said, I get a reminder of fountain-pen ink from many of the vintage photos I have collected over the years (those on which someone has bothered to write info on the backs) and they don’t bring me the same association, instead I feel kind of connected to them simply from having used a fountain pen myself for many years in my twenties – albeit mostly with purple ink!!

    Pencils I associate with drawing more than writing. I can’t remember using a pencil in primary school but am sure I must have done. I do have a little ‘book’ that my mum put together of my earliest drawings – in normal and coloured pencil, so I’m aware that I used it at least for that! (And my sister recently found and gave me a very old box of Stabilo colouring pencils which look like they might have been from the 50s or 60s.

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    • Thanks for the memories! My writing implements of choice even now would be no 1, a fountain pen (blue ink NOT school blue-black!)
      no 2, a pencil, usually propelling pencils which don’t need sharpening. Which reminds me of something else. My dad didn’t like using pencil sharpeners and always used his penknife. He could get a lovely sharp point with his knife!

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      • My mum always sharpened pencils with a blade rather than a sharpener. I prefer a sharpener for normal graphite pencils, but will sometimes use a blade (stanley knife is my preference if the blade is new) for other types of pencil. A blade stops it breaking so easily.

        I haven’t had a fountain pen in years. Pretty sure mine was a Parker, I loved it!

        No. 2 – is that hard? I only really know the grades H and B grades. Did you ever use Venus pencils? I adored those. I have a few left – only short bits most of them, that I treasure. They’re not made any more.

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  4. This post brought back memories. I used to love those Lakeland pencils in their pretty tins. I regarded them as a luxury item – they were probably more expensive in NZ than the UK.


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