|HB graphite pencils|
This is the mineral from which ‘lead’ pencils are made. It is a form of carbon but has no connection with the lead metal, except that lead too makes a black mark when it is drawn on paper.
Graphite used to be mined extensively in the northern part of the Lake District; mining was started in the 16th century by German immigrants; the graphite found was in a very pure form and in those early days was used only for marking sheep.
Later, however, graphite was found to be suitable for lining the casting moulds for cannon and musket balls, which caused its value to soar in the 17th century, as England, France and Holland built up their armies. Since then graphite has been found elsewhere, with many industrial techniques utilising the ore in a multitude of ways.
|The Buttermere Valley from Grey Knotts.|
The Cumbrian graphite was also used in pencil making, which in 1790 led to the founding of the Cumberland pencil industry based in Keswick. The mine, in the Buttermere Valley, closed in 1891 after new techniques meant that graphite no longer needed to be so pure, so the Borrowdale mine became uneconomic.
I remember as kids we’d get pencils with our names on for Christmas or our birthdays ... what a treat ... “our own pencils” branded as ours!! Some coated with silver paint and black lettering, then coloured sets with our names on in gold.
In recent years my honorary goddaughter used to give me HB pencils .. ‘Hilly – these are for you .. they’ve got your initials on!” – I had and still have a lot of HB pencils!!
That is Graphite – that’s what G is for ...
Part of the ABC - April 2011 - A - Z Challenge - Aspects of the British Countryside
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories