If you have never heard of Henry Simpole, your interest in pens is about to get an extraordinary shot in the arm. If you have heard of him, then you’ll already know about the influence he has had in the long history of British pen-making. His name is synonymous with extraordinarily beautiful design of some of the best British fountain pens and consummate talent.
He was known as ‘Henry The Pen Man’ yet he did not make pens. His talent lay in converting fountain pens into glorious works of art. How? By designing and creating wonderful precious metal overlays and applying them to the body of the pen.
Henry’s talent was entirely self-taught. He had spent several years in the hotel trade until the early 1990s when his growing interest in pens and pen collecting gave him the opportunity to set up his own business buying and selling second-hand pens. Trading from a stall in Portobello Road in London, Henry’s customers soon recognised his skills in repairing and servicing fountain pens and word of his talents soon spread throughout the pen collecting community.
Then by a twist of fate, he found his true calling.
A friend bought an original Heath pattern Snake Pen at an auction and asked if Henry could photograph it for him. While the pen was in Henry’s possession, he took a tracing of the silver overlays on both the cap and the barrel and then set about trying to replicate the design so he could gift a pen with a silver overlay to his sister.
The rest is history!
Before long Henry had learned how to design his own beautifully artistic patterns and work with silver and gold to create fabulous pen overlays. He took his design inspiration from a wide variety of sources including vintage storage boxes, antique theatre programmes and from his extensive library of great artists of the Art Nouveau era such as Lalique, William Morris and his favourite, Alphonse Mucha.
By 1999 he had become the go-to expert for precious metal overlays and several pen manufacturers were knocking on his door to create exclusive overlays for them.
Conway Stewart was at the forefront of this new/old design concept and worked closely with Henry to create pens for four of his designs.Then in 2005 and 2006, the relationship became more cemented when Henry was commissioned to create overlays for the prestigious Conway Stewart ‘Centenary Pen’ celebrating 100 years of pen production and the giant Conway Stewart ‘Great Exhibition Pen’. In addition, Henry also created overlays for Conway Stewart’s ‘Simpole Pen’, the incredibly delicate ‘Chatsworth Pen’ and the ‘Marilyn Monroe Pen’ some of the best british fountain pens made this century.
The first four of these overlay editions included the letters ‘C’ and ‘S’ cleverly incorporated into the designs - a fact that many owners were completely unaware of! In addition, in the ‘Chatsworth’ edition Henry incorporated the letters ‘J’ and ‘G’ into the design to represent the two founders of Conway Stewart, Jarvis and Garner.
Sadly, Henry passed away in 2020 leaving a legacy that is hugely admired by pen collectors around the world. He was a gentle man who earned respect and admiration for his silversmithing and design talents and is sadly missed by all in the pen community who knew him.
If your interest in overlay pens has been piqued by this brief explanation of Henry’s life and extraordinary talent, then perhaps now is the time to think about adding one or more of his magnificent works of art to your collection. You can choose from either (or both!) of the following editions which have been acquired from Henry’s estate and are now available in limited numbers exclusively from Conway Stewart.
Conway Stewart ‘Marilyn Monroe’ limited edition of 90 with overlay by Henry Simpole
A classic Henry Simpole design, incorporating Marilyn’s enigmatic profile and the inscribed words ‘Boo, Boo Be Doo’ taken from one of her most famous songs ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ which she sang in the film ‘Some Like It Hot’.
Conway Stewart ‘Chatsworth’ limited edition of 100 (only 12 available) with overlay by Henry Simpole
Henry’s most delicate filigree design incorporating delicate lace-like strands of silver and incorporating the letters C and S (for Conway Stewart) and J and G (for Jarvis and Garner, the founders of Conway Stewart).