This portion of the web site is dedicated to the memory and history of the Sutcliffe Pressings company in Horsforth, Leeds, England. We have been contacted by the Sutcliffe family and have enjoyed exchanging email and talking on the phone with them. Our first contact was with Angus and Mary Ellefsen. Mary is the niece of Kenneth Sutcliffe, who last owned and operated Sutcliffe Pressings. The "Works" is gone now, but we have been lucky enough to obtain some great photos of it. This is partly because the Ellefsen's are heavly involved in photography, and have thus been able to restore some of the old photos of the family and the works. We wish to thank them for their support and acknowledgement of our site. These photos are copyrighted, so please do not take them without prior permission.
Angus and Mary Ellefson. Without their Assistance, Mr. J. William Sutcliffe, Founder of
this history and information would not have been Sutcliffe Pressings
The document below was created by Mr. Sutcliffe and is a true historical depiction of the evolution of SutcliffePressings. This document has not been altered or reworded since it was put on paper. The only thing that has been done is to set it to typewritten text. It appears exactly as Mr. Sutcliffe wrote it. You will not find this document in any sort of circulation because it is an original. We warn all readers of the contents that this is copyrighted and can NOT be borrowed or used elsewhere under any circumstances.Please be forewarned, that we were given permission to post this.If you have a Sutcliffe boat you would like to date, the document below contains all the information you should need. There is one boat that is not mentioned, and that is the "Jane" runabout that was made for the Windermere Steamboat Museum in a quantity of less than 100 total. The fiberglass boats Zodiac nor Meteor appear in this document either.
SUTCLIFFE PRESSINGS LTD., HORSFORTH, LEEDS.
The business was established in 1885 by the late J. William Sutcliffe who had worked in Leeds and Bradford as a sheet metal worker and at the age of 20 started in business in Horsforth - at first sharing a building with a relative who was a joiner. Domestic utensils were made in addition to the repairs of such goods and both new work and repairs carried out at local mills and factories. Some old accounts show that many repairs for homes consisted of jobs which today would be considered quite trivial such as fixing & new base to a pan or kettle etc.
Some years later work began on the manufacture of goods for the photographic trade which required the use of presses, both hand and power operated and special presstools for the production of darkroom lamps (now called safelights), developing tanks for plates and. washing tanks for prints. A wide range of sizes and styles being made in quantities for several years until this trade dwindled as the 'snapshot' era came along. About 1903 the manufacture of engineer's oilcans for lubricating machinery was started and this entailed further plant and sets of presstools to be purchased or, in some instances, made by Mr. Sutcliffe on lathes and milling machines. Most of' the above goods were made of tinplate, soldered. together by workers trained in the factory; the photographic goods being sprayed with lacquer and stoved hard in ovens.
After the first world war the manufacture of toy boats was started as a 'sideline', the first being a battleship 12" long and, driven by a patented method of propulsion by water circulation. Altogether five boats were made using this method during the years 1920 to 1928. The boats would run for an hour or more but the speed was slow - partly due to the weight of the boat. A change was then made to the use of clockwork motors, these being bought out for some years until it was found advisable to make the motors also - to be certain of consistent quality and performance. Thus the toy business grew to be larger than the older oilcan side yet the two products went on together and also large numbers of loaf tins were made in the first twenty five years of the century.
Many different styles of boats were made including speedboats, cruisers, two sizes of battleships, the first submarine (Unda-Wunda) and a destroyer; the sizes of boats made between the two world wars ranged from 8" to 24" in length and all were backed up by a unique repair service which has brought many letters of congratulations from customers over the years.
Oilcans and toy boats are still the main products today with the addition of toys such as cranes and, dumper trucks; the press capacity is used, to supply industrial concerns with light metal pressings and generally the various lines are made in the same way since they were designed.
About 25-30 workers are employed in the factory at the busier times, in the lifetime of the firm several workers came from school and remained until retirement; the business is still independent being run by the youngest, and only surviving son of the founder.
Toy collectors and others interested in metal toys will be enthralled by a book published in 1976 called "The Art of the Tin Toy" by David Pressland and published by New Cavendish Books at £20. This deals with the subject from the year 1825 to the present day, it is a large book which will be a unique source of reference for collectors the world over The book (13" x 11") contains 640 illustrations and 240 of these are in colour. SUTCLIFFE BOATS are referred to on Page 137 and there are some of the early boats illustrated.
A limited production of the clockwork version of the 12" Battleship is planned for some time in 1978. This will be a 'near replica' - i.e. differing in two or three details only.
SUTCLIFFE TOY BOATS (and other toys). September 1982.
Pre World War 2.
"Hot-Air" propulsion, a single copper tube, coiled amidships, both ends emerging at the stern just under the waterline, coils heated by methylated spirit lamp. (i.e. using liquid spirit and a wick about 5/8" wide.
1920 12" Battleship until conversion to clockwork about 1928/29.
16" Battleship no record when introduced, (2 copper coils) until 1928.
a motor cruiser was made on the above 16" hull, same propulsion, very few made, no illustration survives. The boat had a roof of sheet copper. If anyone has one of these we would welcome the chance to photograph the boat; there is no record of the number made, probably for 2 years.
Also in the 1920's two 'motor boats' were made - 8" and 12" long; possibly for about 5/6 years or less? None of the above carried names.
Clockwork boats from 1928 onwards: 12" Battleship named Valiant
16" Battleship named Nelson - same superstructure as the 12" but in addition two further gun turrets mounted on the main deck, 12", 16" and 20" Speedboats, mahogany hatch over the motor secured by 4 - 1/8" dia. screws, the windscreen being behind the hatch.
The 12" was first made in 1930 and others added later; made to '39. In addition a line of 3 cruisers on the above hulls were made from 1934 until 1939. These had a loose metal 'cabin' with slide on roof. (12" named Swallow, 16" Commodore and the 20" Empress; (3 Cruisers), 12" Speedboat named Minx, 16" Meteor and the 20", (the 20" until 1937). From 1938 - l940 a 12" Destroyer (Grenville) was made which was the most intricate boat in deck fittings.
From 1932-1936 a range of yachts was offered - 12", 16" and 20"long. All the above boats had hulls made from pieces of tinplate - one metal stamping later split in two.
In 1932 a completely new conception of boat was designed with a hull consisting of one stamping with a narrow flange all round on to which a deck was fastened by means of two presstools. A new method for toy boats which was copied later by other toy boat makers. This boat 9" long was named RACER 1 - for the first two years the motor was fitted into a well or cockpit sealed off from the rest of the hull and was covered by a sliding lid. The hull was finished in white and red with the lid in blue. From 1934 or 1935 the motor was fixed direct to the hull and the deck had only a hole for winding up the motor, this hole being 'plugged' by a metal topped cork when using in the water, This speed boat had a companion boat - Snappy submarine chaser - from 1934 - 1940, the first two years having a similar location for the motor as Racer and later the superstructure with funnel and gun were soldered direct to the main deck.
The first diving submarine - Unda - Wunda was made from 1934 to 1940; this differed from the 'Post - War' subs, in that the keel was quite short but much deeper, curled at the base - taking round wire inside as extra weight if required when balancing the boat.
1935 the ZIP speedboat was made on the Racer hull but using a more powerful motor.
From 1937 to 1940 the Bluebird 1 was made, having the same motor as ZIP but having the hull extended at the stern and also a raised superstructure carrying raised seat, windscreen etc.
The longest boat was 24" long and powered by electric motor using either 1 or 2 - 4½ volts 'flashlamp' batteries, This, like the 12" to 20" boats listed above had a hull made from two halves cut from one large tinplate stamping 'drawn' in a large toggle draw press. The deck was built up from separate pieces cut out by hand and a single canopy covered most of the motor/batteries cockpit. There is no record of the number of 24" boats that were sold but possibly the number was quite low as it was on the market from 1930 to 1933 or 1934 - a time of economic difficulties when there was little money for anything but the lowest priced toys.
With further reference to the 'Hot-Air' boats (Para.1), this method of propulsion for toy boats crops up regularly in magazines over the years. Perhaps the correct term is a "water circulatory boiler" and the system used only a copper tube the accurate forming being very critical; they were silent in operation unlike the 'Toc Toc' or 'Pop Pop' boats which used a different principle. It was a shallow pan with a lid of very thin metal (.004") into which a tube was fixed, on heating the pan the thin lid vibrated making a noise whilst sending impulses through the tube.
SUTCLIFFE TOY BOATS (and other toys). September 1982.
POST WAR - December 1946 on.
Racer 1 (9" hull). Speedboat with a loose oval hatch over the motor. For first two years (1947 - 1948) the hull and deck were in blue with an orange hatch or orange with a blue hatch. Later on with white deck, red hull and blue hatch and was listed, until 1969.
Other boats made on the 9" hull were as follows:-
Comet speedboat (all yellow or all blue from 1955-1972.
Sooty speedboat in ivory finish with Sooty figure -1958-1967.
Noddy in white and blue or white and green with a Noddy figure - from 1959 - 1968.
Bluebird 1 almost identical with the 'pre - war' boat except a difference in the windscreen (1 piece) with 'exhausts' in a horizontal position instead of three short ones in vertical position.
1948 - 1967.
Bluebird 2 with a hull 12" long and twin 'floats' 1 each side from 1958 - 1959,
Viking steamer on the 9" hull having several parts from the Grenville Destroyer superstructure mounted on the deck. 1950/59. Also on the 9" hull -
Fury gunboat in grey and red.-1954/1963,
Jupiter Pilot Cruiser 1963 - 1981.
Sprite Day Cruiser 1967 - 1981.
Tiger Speedboat - 1969 - 1978.
Victor Torpedo Boat 1971/1975 and 1978/81.
On a new 12" hull - Merlin electric speedboat 1963 - 1980
Kestrel " cruiser 1968 - 1976.
Hawk clockwork speedboat 1968 - 1981.
Commodore cruiser 1977 - 1981.
The Grenville Destroyer was again made from 1948 - 1950, the first few were finished in grey and, black (as in 'pre - war' years) but the majority were in grey and 'signal' red.
Clockwork submarines - the Unda - Wunda was again made in grey and red as before but with a much longer keel fixed sometimes with small weights when necessary.
Made 1948 - 1967; and also from 1976 - 1981 in blue finish.
Sea - Wolf submarine with identical hull with a flat platform carrying a red plastic conning tower and, a mounted rocket. At first this boat was finished in ivory but later in bright yellow, 1963 - 1981 and in the later years had a wire added to the bow. Nautilus submarine introduced at the time when the Walt Disney film "Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea" was on general release. 1955 - 1974 and 1976 - 1978. Finished in light green.
A near replica of the first Sutcliffe boat - the 12" Valiant battleship was again made late in 1978 -1980. The main alteration lay in moving both motor and the aft funnel nearer to the stern thus allowing the motor to be wound up between the two funnels which were not open at the base as before; in addition the superstructure was held in place by a brass turnbutton on each side instead of using small screws.
In the last 2/3 years a small number of the following boats have been made for toy collectors, - Bluebird 1 (100), Fury (90), Viking (100); Zip (100); Snappy (40); Comet (15).
In 1981 a special limited edition of a new 12" Day Cruiser on the Hawk deck and hull and called DIANA was made and also packed in a special box, 375 only were produced for collectors and not supplied to retail shops.
Other toys made in recent years include a Junior Crane, pullalong Truck, Dust Pan Set, Trojan Dumper Truck.
Here are a few pictures of the original presses, etc inside of Sutcliffe Pressings, Ltd. These photographs were recovered and restored by Angus and Mary Ellefsen. We wish to thank the Ellefsens and Mrs. Joan Sutcliffe for their kind support and assistance. Look here for future photos and information about the history of these great boats. We hope you enjoy our collection of Sutcliffe boats and toys. The collection is not complete however, and we would appreciate reports of any sightings of the following boats.
1. Any of the 3 sizes of metal hulled sailboats made by Sutcliffe Pressings.
2. Sutcliffe un-named steel ship with dual steam coil boilers. Approximately 12" in length.
3." Empress" Sutcliffe boat.
4. Other Sutcliffe toys including Crane and Front End Loader
5. Most other toy boats made by Sutcliffe Pressings, Ltd.