Ugly Pen Of The Month


That, I must confess, is not the prettiest fountain pen I have ever seen. It’s clearly missing a large cap ring and it’s made from some sort of early injection moulded plastic which isn’t terribly attractive.  The cap screws on and is quite secure but it’s tight and you know there’s been some shrinkage going on there.

When you take the cap off, there’s this nice gold nib and then you see that it’s 18K gold-plated! It hardly seems worth the bother of going from 14K to 18K when it’s only a gold wash anyway.

It seems hardly even fit for the spares box until you try writing with it, and then suddenly it becomes an altogether better pen!

I’ve tried researching Queensway, the company that made this pen, but I’ve drawn a blank. It’s surprising that there’s nothing about them on the Internet because in the postwar decades Queensway pens were everywhere. I asked my husband about them, as he benefits from having grown up in Britain and also being a little bit older than me (just a bit). He recognised the style of this pen but the ones that he used were later and were cartridge fillers rather than lever fillers. He said that after having lost and broken the better quality pens his parents bought him, he was condemned to a life of Platignums and Queensways. Whereas the Platignums were just bad the Queensways were truly awful. They existed to leak. It was something to do with the cartridge, which if he remembers correctly, had a strange neck which didn’t fit right and ensured that the ink went everywhere except on the paper.

That’s a pretty bad rep! Surprisingly, this one doesn’t leak at all and it writes beautifully. It’s still not an attractive pen but at least it’s a good writer.


19 thoughts on “Ugly Pen Of The Month

    1. There are some Platignums that would surprise you! I’ve had some bulb fillers from the 1930s that were well-made pens. Sometime in the 50s or maybe even early 60s, Platignum was turning out gold-nibbed pens that were of more than adequate quality. Of course, almost all the rest were trash.

  1. It seems the Queensway brand was owned by one of the companies in the Roll Tip group. which was itself acquired by Devobond shortly after their takeover of Conway Stewart in 1963. Two companies are mentioned – initially T & N (Queensway) Ltd and later the Queensway Solo Pen Co. Ltd (note this was distinct from the Solo Pen Co. Ltd). The Roll Tip manufacturing operation was sited in Great Cambridge Road Enfield (the premises later becoming Conway Stewart’s manufacturing base), so it is quite likely the Queensways were manufactured there, at least for a time. The one Queensway box I have only states ‘made in England’ and there is no instruction leaflet included, so that is no help unfortunately.

    There is a long and tedious account on the internet of a claim for patent infringement against Conway Stewart and other companies from the Roll Tip group regarding aspects of ballpoint pen manufacture. Having twice tried to read through this, I am still no clearer on the outcome of the case! However, the Queensway Solo Pen Co was finally dissolved in 1977.

  2. Does the plastic have an unpleasant smell? A Roll Tip I have does & so do quite a few early injection moulded pens I have

  3. my one and only Roll-Tip does have a strong unpleasant smell, but then one or two of my other cheapies do as well, and I notice there’s a not too dissimilar name on one of my Osmiroid pens where part of the nib imprint reads ROLATIP.
    I do see some Queensway pens at fairs, but give them a miss.

    In Stephen Hull’s book on the British Pen Industry, under the entry for Queensway, it reads….
    ‘Queensway – who makes? – so obviously a difficulty in pinning down information.

    There aren’t too many good Platignums, but a few are surprisingly good writers – for example the Pressmatic, Statesman and Varsity – although generally writing with those pre WW II steel nibs is nigh on impossible.

  4. In defence of the Platignum, my school italic nibbed pens were always much better than the user. OK, feint praise!

  5. my Roll-Top is cheap and nasty, like many of them – and has lost its clip to boot. I notice that in addition to the words Roll-Tip, around the cap lip area, it also says REGD 902649 – a British Board of Trade Design Registration No. allocated in July or August 1961. These Registration Nos. have been going since c. 1841, and for some decades in the C19 gave a degree of protection to the relevant manufacturers design – whatever it was – for a period of three years. Later in the C19 that same protection for designs was extended to five years, with the option to increase for further multiples of five year periods – I don’t know the percentage of companies – who were allocated a No. – took advantage of the option to extend – not that many I don’t think, as many designs prove less than useful in practice.
    Obviously for designs that became successful and made money for their inventors, then extension would have been worthwhile. These design Registrations were not a system to be confused with Patents – not entirely sure of the differences – but different they were.

    Design Registration Nos. were available for 13 separate Classes of materials – I think Metal was Class I from memory.

    From experience I know that factory drawings of Registration Designs – at item level – can’t be viewed on the screen – I know all of this as I have a reader’s ticket for The National Archives at Kew, and I always need to visit in person to research glass (Class III). So, no idea to what design No. 902649 refers – it won’t be the pinched nib point, since that seem to have been going for eons – Platignum used it commonly – but taking a guess, it may just possibly be the wrap around design/shape of the steel nib where it encases the plastic feed. Really only guessing though – maybe everyone else knows the answer already, and they might care to enlighten me.
    I shall probably be at Kew in the coming days for other matters, and if the answer isn’t forthcoming then I will have a look.

  6. apologies are in order I’m sure, since this thread concerns Queensway – and I propose to add more about ROLL-TIP – but can say I have cleared this with Deb, and will keep it brief.

    Only rarely does a pen manufacturer seem to have Registered a design, as happened with the ROLL-TIP Registration mentioned above – No. 902649 – a No. which appears on the cap of my pen – a cap which looks to have done service for more than one ROLL-TIP model. This No. covers the design of the cap only.

    In searching the archives at Kew in order to photograph the factory drawing for this cap, I discovered that the following No. 902650 covers a design for a companion barrel/section which was intended to pair up with cap …………… this other drawing shows a pen body unlike mine.
    In fact the body looks to be a copy of a Parker, showing a fully hooded nib/section. Whilst these caps carry the Reg. No. I’ve no idea if the pen body does since I don’t have the body shown in drawing 902650………… perhaps someone else might have a Parker look-a-like ROLL-TIP pen with fully hooded section, showing both the cap No. and a separate No. on the barrel imprint, or perhaps marked on the cap only.
    Both the above Nos. were first Registered on 28th July 1961, and were given the usual five year protection. In the event both designs were extended for a further period of five years – the protection expiring finally in 1971.
    The wording for both Registrations shows what appears to be a partnership between ROLL-TIP and C.S., as presumably in July 1961 neither had been taken over by Devobond.

    Many older pens show Patent Nos., but few are linked to a Registration No. – presumably since it’s difficult to create a new design for something as common and old hat as a f.p.
    I have seen accommodation clips marked with a Reg. No. – I’ve a Swan – Made in England – example which carries the No. 676026, the design of which was Registered in April 1920.

    Deb has pix of the original factory drawing for both these No., as do I.

    1. Most interesting. I would love to see an actual example of that hood/barrel design. It seems strange to me that in all these years studying eBay and other sources of pens I’ve never seen one.

    2. Registered design numbers on pens were rather more common in the earlier part of the 20th century, especially when there was an interest in novelty stylos or pens. I have researched several in regard of two of my own interests (Bentley pens and George Shand, some of which are shown in Steve Hull’s article in WES Journal no. 99) and for Steve’s Onoto Book (Asprey’s enamel over silver overlaid stylo illustrated on p41 of that book).

  7. Will keep an eye out for said pen, and post if one is discovered.

    Coming back to my suggestion as to the origins of the name ROLL-TIP – would appear it has nothing to do with the shape of f.p. nibs, and was in fact an imaginative piece of sales terminology which described the smooth tip of a new design of ball-point ink pencil – plus a company name ………… it’s possible the ball pen invention came first – but not sure.
    Probably c. 1951 the Company produced their ‘ball-point ink pencil’, which featured a patented ‘easy write roll-tip’ etc. etc.

  8. sorry, meant to say this information came courtesy of Steve Hull’s marvellous book on C.S.

  9. my visits to TNA at Kew are infrequent – possibly every couple of months or so, but anyone has a genuine need to see a particular factory drawing, related to a specific Registration No., I can photograph and pass relevant pix if of interest.
    My arrangement with the Trustees is that I’m supposed to watermark any pix if these are intended to be posted into the public domain, but assuming for private use then I can forward without watermarking.

  10. Love your posts! Keep them coming. This subject line was funny – thanks for making me smile.

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