Sutcliffe, 1920-1983

The firm of Sutcliffe Pressings started in 1885 producing domestic utensils and other sheet metal goods. Later, tinplate safelights and trays for film developing processes were made before progressing to the production of a variety of oil cans and, in 1920, tinplate boats. In 1932 Sutcliffe pioneered and produced boat hulls made from a single pressing as prior to this all boat hulls had been made in two halves and then soldered together. Most of the boats were produced using the 9 inch and 12 inch hull (approx. 23cm & 30cm) although other sizes were also made. As well as boats and submarines small metal pressings such as the metal box used to hold fire blankets, 'penny' loaf tins and a few other toys were made. Toy production continued until the factory closed in 1984. Here is a small selection from the museum Sutcliffe collection.


Noddy, 9" hull, 1959-68

Three Merlin electric, 12" hull, 1963-80,
Can you see the changes made over the years?

Viking, 9" hull, 1950-59
(A batch of 100 were also made around 1978)

Zip, 9" hull, 1935 (lower) used the large clockwork motor in the small hull.
Upper is one of the 100 made around 1978.

The Valiant Battleship was the first boat to be produced in 1920, it was originally powered by a Water circulatory boiler with the coil heated by methylated spirits but in 1928 became clockwork powered. It was produced again with slight modifications between 1978 and 1980, the picture shows one of the 6 known to have been fitted with an electric motor. The box lid has a sticker over the word 'clockwork' and 'Electric' written on it by Ken Sutcliffe, the last of the family to produce boats. (Note the rollover image is distorted, the boat is thinner than it appears)


Zodiac, large electric boat with a plastic hull and wood deck (Minx was smaller with a clockwork motor- see the rollover image). The upper Zodiac was modified by the factory to take a clockwork motor. The lower boat has the windscreen missing, note the detail differences between the two boats.

Oil cans were produced in several types and sizes. Here is a Christmas gift for father consisting of the smallest oil can and gift wrapped bottle of oil.




Metal yachts were also produced, unfortunately the museum does not have one but does have this unopened package containing the cord for the rigging. It was found when clearing the factory around 1984.

Small display card stands were produced, one for boats as shown in the above pictures and one for the submarine, the latter being printed with its name 'Unda Wunda'. Later, two more submarines, the Nautilus and Sea Wolf were produced and reels of 'Sea Wolf' sticky tape were used to convert the stand to 'Sea Wolf'. Not many stands with the sticker on were made and the reels of tape tended to get used for other purposes. Shown opposite are two reels that survived. The museum also has the toy shop large card Nautilus display stand, the wire stand for four small boats and when the firm went to exhibitions and shows two specially made sheet metal stands for the larger boats, two rotating turntables and the large plastic demonstration tank.