Hogarth & Hayes – Polygrade Set

The pencil maker ‘Derwent’ has a particularly rich history (hence the reason they have a pencil museum, I guess) and with that comes with a bunch of name changes.  I’ll try not to make this post a company-history lesson, but essentially, before Derwent there was Cumberland, before Cumberland there was Hogarth & Hayes.  There were others before that, but this is where we need to park for this post.

When I stumbled across this box of pencils, I was pretty sure immediately what it was.  The pencils don’t appear too often and even then, very rarely as a complete set.  I’ve seen another set on the National Trust Archives, however, its in a bad way and incomplete.


Initially it annoyed me that someone decided to use one of the pencils, but actually in the end, it allowed me the opportunity to try them out.  Given the age and location of manufacture, there is a chance that these pencils contain Borrowdale Graphite.  Of course, I have no way of actually confirming this, however, Borrowdale Graphite was exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and Hogarth & Hayes (as an earlier company) were there too; they even won a medal.

hogath - 23.07.1898

As well as the medals, we can see that by 1898 Hogarth & Hayes were supplying a number of Royals as well as the Government Offices.  No British Royals just yet, but we will come back to that…


The label on the back of the box is damaged but confirms my assumptions

It appears that Hogarth & Hayes were very happy to have you come visit.  The advert on the left below is from November 1883.  Two interesting points to note are firstly, that they advertise the company as being established in 1837 – this is technically not true as they were ‘Banks, Son & Co’ at that point.

Secondly, the advert mentions that you can have your name impressed on pencils when you visit the factory.  I have a number of other Hogarth & Hayes pencils with the owner’s name on them so its likely they went for a visit!  The newspaper article on the right is from September 1900 and details the rather charming visit by the Darlington Choir – note the mention of plumbago and not graphite.

The pencils are imprinted with their grading.  I’ve always been a fan of the ‘BB’ over ‘2B’, it feels fancier to me.  The imprinting on this occasion is superb, companies nowadays could really learn something here.


Cedar box with brass clasp

The lead/core, as we would expect for a pencil of this age, is square.  I’ve seen a similar set with circular cores so i’m going to age these between 1897 – 1900.   The pencils have been put together with the very traditional ‘trough with a lid’ technique for the barrel.  This is a phrase I just made up, but it gives you the general idea.

Not only were the pencils of excellent quality, but the visits were really paying off.  In September 1900, they scored big with a royal visit.  Hogarth & Hayes used the opportunity to supply the British Royals with a box of pencils and the Royals were so impressed they wrote a letter (or possibly as it good etiquette to do so) – which Hogarth & Hayes subsequently published in the paper.

Hogarth - royal visit - 15.09.1900

From this point onward we see an update to the standard paper advertisement.  The version below is from 1907 and it’s basically the same as the version I posted earlier, however, there are a few differences.

Firstly, there are more medals. Second, there appears to have been issues with getting into the factory so they make a point of underlining the directions.  Lastly, and most importantly, they have added some more Royals to the list.  We can assume that it all stemmed from the Royal visit back in 1900.

hogarth - 31.08.1907

As always, i’m interested in hearing from you if you have similar items; feel free to get in touch.

4 thoughts on “Hogarth & Hayes – Polygrade Set

Add yours

  1. I have the identical cedar box, with square catch. It was given to me by my great aunt when I was a child in the 50s. The box is stamped with the name ‘Happy Lee’ on the lid. It has a circular Hogarth & Hayes green sticker on the bottom, and the cut grooves for the pencils inside.Thank you for identifying it, as I have always wondered how old it might be.


    1. Hi Carole
      Glad to be of help! Would love to see your version if you get a chance. You can mail me via the contact page.
      Such a lovely set, i’m always on the lookout for more. Hope you’re enjoying yours!


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