A Brief History of the Atlas Pencil Company, England

(The following is an excerpt from the book "Chesham At Work in the 20th Century" by Keith Fletcher, Lesley Perry and Peter Hawkes. Published 2008, ISBN 978-0-9554707-2-1, and is used by permission.)

In 1932 Mr R.R.Apel and his nephew Mr Lorenz Kress came to England and started a business in Wembley. Three years later they moved to Bellingdon Road, Chesham where they established the Atlas Pencil Company. Initially the business was to make leadslips for fitting into wooden pencils. All grades of lead were made with various compositions of graphite and clay. In 1941 the original building was practically burned to the ground but, because of the high proportion of products exported, the Board of Trade gave great assistance to fund a temporary building which allowed the company to be back in full production within a few months. After the war the building was completed and a test and development laboratory added.

The re-built Bellingdon Road factory

One of the development team was Dr F.Hardtmuth who was a direct descendent of the man who helped to invent the method for making pencil leads. Soon the main business became the manufacture of leads for propelling pencils which were becoming increasingly popular. Leads were made in graphite and colours for all the leading brands of propelling pencil. When Mr Apel died in 1949 Mr Kress took over as managing director and became a well known and respected figure in the Chesham business community. Business continued to grow and eventually, when a wood encasement department was added, complete pencils were made.

Major contracts were won with government departments, educational authorities and cosmetic companies. The work force rose to 50 and an evening shift was introduced. In the 1960's the company joined forces with Joseph Egherton & Co. Ltd who ran the Royal Ensign Pencil Works in Manchester.

In 1965 the company sold a 49% share to Hardmuth's and the remainder in 1972 when the Chesham factory was closed and all the work transferred to a new factory in Bideford, Devon.

Atlas Pencils

© 2009 The Pencil Pages