Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Yard-o-led Pencil Co

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December 1948.

of 1 Great Cumberland Place, Marble Arch, London, W1. Telephone: Paddington 2018. Cables: "Yardoled". (1947)

1900s In the early 1900s, Mr. Ludwig Frederick Brenner learned his skills in the jewellery trade in Pforzheim, southwest Germany, a town world famous for its jewellery and watch-making industry.

Pre-WWI. Brenner settled in England, and from premises in City Road, London, he introduced a broad range of elegant jewellery in rolled gold and silver. He went on to establish strong relationships with many craftsmen and merchants of fine jewellery, becoming highly respected in the trade.

WWI. When war broke out, Brenner was interned and lost his business.

Post-WW1. When peacetime returned, he started a new business and resumed trading.

1931 He founded the Brenner Pocock Pen Co in London.

1934 Frank Tufnell Junior, (whose father had been a long time associate and employee of Mordans) met Mr. Brenner. This would later prove to be of great importance in the history of writing instruments. That year, Ludwig Frederick Brenner founded the Yard-O-Led Pencil Co after patenting a mechanical pencil design which enabled each pencil to hold twelve 3 inch leads (or one yard, hence "Yard-O-Led"). Yard-O-Led pencils became well-known and were even sold in the United States.

WWII. In 1941, at the height of the London Blitz, both Mordans factory and the premises of Yard-O-Led were totally destroyed by German bombs, together with their books and records. Many documents were lost when the safe at Yard-O-Led was looted. Ludwig Frederick Brenner and Frank Tufnell Junior met up again and decided to rebuild the Yard-O-Led Company.

Post-WWII. The business was re-started and a new factory was built in Augusta Street, (now part of Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter). The Sampson Mordan Co patterns were sold, and the name was acquired by Edward Baker of Birmingham. Tufnell purchased a majority shareholding in Yard-O-Led, also buying the Edward Baker Co.

1947 Listed Exhibitor - British Industries Fair. Manufacturers of "Yard-o-led" (One Yard of Lead) Propelling Pencils in Solid Gold, Hall-marked Sterling Silver, Rolled Gold, Rhodium-Plate, etc. (Olympia, Ground Floor, Stand Nos. D.1623 and 1625) [1]

Business flourished and pencils were made slightly longer in solid silver. Yard-O-Led went on to offer a wide range of pencils and pens using materials from plastic to silver or gold plate, rolled silver, solid silver, rolled gold and even platinum.

1950s The arrival of the ballpoint pen had a big impact on the trade, even though the early refills were poor - Yard-O-Led also produced such pens. The rarest Yard-O-Led ballpoint pen is however one made of pewter, which apparently was not put into general production, though Mr. Keats was able to show one borrowed from a collector.

1955 The company's founder, Ludwig Frederick Brenner, retired. When the Edward Baker Co moved to a larger factory at Soho Hill, Birmingham, the Yard-O-Led factory moved into the former Baker premises. Yard-O-Led took over Edward Baker.

1961 Frank Tuffnell, Junior, became Managing Director of Yard-O-Led.

1964 Mr. Brenner died, at the age of 88.

1965 The London offices moved from Great Cumberland Street to Drummond Street.

1972 The London offices moved again, to East Barnet.

Tim Tufnell, a trained manufacturing jeweller and son of Frank Tuffnell Junior, joined Yard-O-Led in the 1970s, and eventually became Managing Director.

Today, Yard-O-Led is owned by Filofax (itself now part of the Letts Filofax Group).


See Also

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Sources of Information

  • [1] The Pentrace Report