Henry Simpole - 1951-2020 - Master Pensmith

Posted by Simon Gray on

It was with great sadness that I learned yesterday that Henry died peacefully at home last Friday following a lengthy period of illness caused by Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

I have known Henry since the early 1990s as a friend, fellow pen enthusiast, and as the generous source of help and advice on everything from repairing Namikis to the best way to make Hollandaise.  I will miss him in so many ways

Details of Henry's funeral will be finalised over the coming days by his family.  Please contact me by email at simon@penhome.co.uk if you would like further information on this.  Henry has chosen a reasonably small village church for his funeral, so this combined with the current social distancing rules may restrict numbers

I am going to write an obituary to be published in the next edition of the Writing Equipment Society's magazine later next month.  In the meantime, here is a short biography of Henry's involvement with pens - just one aspect of his life - taken from his website:

Henry Simpole (aka) "Henry the Pen Man" was born in July 1951. After his schooling he attended technical college in Walthamstowe (suburb of NW London) where he studied hotel management for two years. After college (1970/1) he went into the hotel trade and remained in the business until 1990 by which time he had discovered his interest in fountain pen collecting. He quickly learnt how to repair pens, and after a while decided to sell his duplicates at antique fairs and flea markets.

He continued with his hobby until his job started to get in the way of his pastime! Needless to say, the hobby won, and he made the huge decision to give up his full-time job and work in the vintage fountain pen business.

During the first four years (and considerable financial angst!) he worked on the repairs, which occasionally involved work on metal overlay pens. Then a perculiar thing happened; a pen friend bought an original Heath pattern Snake Pen at a small auction, and asked if Henry could photograph it for him.

Whilst this pen was in Henry's possession, he took a tracing-paper pattern of both cap and barrel, and then set about trying to copy the design. It should be pointed out that at this stage he only intended to try and make one copy of the pen, as a present for his sister! It was at this point that some of his regular customers at Portabello Market expressed their interest in buying the Snake pattern pen, should he decide to make more copies.

After 14 months of work, and sharp learning curves along the way, he launched the first pen at the London Pen Show in 1999 under the company name of His Nibs Limited. Prior to this, the Battersea Pen Home had commissioned him to make "one-off" silver and gold overlays for original Conklin Cresent-filler pens (20 in Silver, 3 in 18ct Gold).

Over the next 7 years, Henry created a further 4 design of pens, all in partnership with Conway Stewart who produced the base pens for him. This in turn led to Conway Stewart commissioning Henry to produce two prestigious overlays for them; the 2005 Centenary Pen and the subsequent, giant Great Exhibition Pen in 2006. Both pens had designs that carried the C & S initials subliminally incorporated into the design of the overlay, something that many owners today still haven't been made aware of!

"This whole story is so peculiar" says Henry, "it has all evolved really, my hobby just got bigger, and the overlay side of the business is even more extraordinary. What started as a nice "project" has grown into a lovely branch of the business. For as long as people appreciate my work I will continue to create new designs".

All images © of Neal Laver