June 2018: Following a star appearance on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow, the Derwent Pencil Museum is encouraging viewers to uncover the secrets of the World War Two Map Pencil in person.
Valued at £400 by Mark Allum on the popular programme, antique hunters in Newcastle were shocked by the pencil, unaware that more originals are on show only 90 miles away from where they were being filmed.
The Derwent Pencil Museum has four 1942 originals on show in the Keswick attraction- including one pencil with a seventy-year-old map of Germany.
Proudly donated by surviving relatives of inventor Charles Fraser-Smith, the popular Cumbrian attraction houses the pencils, showing their secret compartment and internal items – which were kept hidden from the public under the Official Secrets Act until 1975.
The ‘spy stationery’ was created by Charles Fraser Smith in 1942 alongside the Cumberland Pencil Factory, who aimed to assist Lancaster Bomber pilots in their efforts or help prisoners-of-war escape German camps.
The former site of the Cumberland Pencil Factory, which currently sits alongside the Derwent Pencil Museum, was a key part of the manufacture and distribution of these pencils across RAF bases and Europe.
Charles was revered as an inventor and it is thought he inspired Ian Fleming with the character of Q in the James Bond series.
Dawn Walker, Manager of the Derwent Pencil Museum was shocked to see the pencil on the television: “We knew how special these pencils were, but we never expected to see one of them on the Antiques Roadshow.
“It’s unknown how many are left in the world, due to the fact they were carried in one of the UK’s most recognisable aircraft during World War 2. I’m actually thrilled that there is another pencil in circulation.
“We’re now asking people to come to the Museum and discover the full story for themselves!”
The Derwent Pencil Museum is open from 9am-5pm every day and more information can be found at https://www.derwentart.com/en/gb/7523/derwent-pencil-museum