I’m sure many readers will remember that well known cricketing brand called Stuart Surridge (SS). It was made famous by the likes of Graham Gooch and Sir Clive Rice back in the 80s. In fact, I bet a few of you owned an SS Jumbo or an SS Turbo back in the day.
Sometimes referred to as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of cricket bats, especially at the time when Gooch scored his famous 333 at Lord’s, the Surridge brand spent many years at the top of the game – until one day it wasn’t around so much anymore. Apparently the company was sold in the 80s and has passed through several hands since.
The good news is that the Surridge family are back with a new range of bats. Designed by John Surridge, the man behind Gooch’s famous 333 Turbo, and headed up by his daughter, Charlotte, the family has set up a new manufacturer called Swannack – a brand that focuses on British bat making traditions.
By sourcing and felling all their own willow trees the pair are able to hand pick the best wood available for each blade. Essentially they have gone back to their roots of ‘from tree to bat’.
With the brand being in development for the last two years, the Surridges have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help spread the word. I spoke with Charlotte, Director at Swannack, about her family history and what we can expect from the new range.
Swannack is a new brand, but the rhetoric talks of over 100 years of experience in cricket bat manufacturing, what are Swannack’s links with the past?
My great, great grandfather set up the original SS business, which was passed down the family over the years. My grandfather, Percy, and his brother, Stuart (the famous Surrey cricketer) , ran the business at its height and my father worked in the family business all his life.
I remember being in Nationwide bank as a young teenager one day (in the days when the money in your account was written in a personal book!) and the cashier asked me if I was related to the bat making family. He was a keen cricketer and the fact that he knew the history of my name was such a significant moment for me.
A huge amount of specialist knowledge and know how has been passed down through our family from father to son and, as I found out more over the years, I always thought it was such a shame that the business was sold.
When my father agreed to get the project going we knew we wanted to honour our roots and channel that expert knowledge into something fresh and new.
How is Swannack different to the other brands out there?
All the willow trees used in our bats are personally sourced and processed by us allowing us to have complete control over quality for each blade.
To know when a willow tree will supply you with great wood, just from looking at its bark and the way it has grown, is such a specialist skill. We take the time to look through all the trees we are purchasing, then once they come to our yard the trunks are hand split into bat sized chunks, called clefts.
Clefts (the piece of wood that a bat is made from) come in many different grades, essentially giving the wood a ‘quality’ label. We only use the top three grades of clefts in our bats so buyers know the blade they receive will be of the best quality available.
Our bats are also made to order according to the player’s specific needs. We want batsmen to have a bat they’re proud to own and like to work closely with our customers to supply them with a blade that improves their game.
How does it feel being the only woman heading up a cricketing brand in a fairly male dominated industry?
It is definitely interesting! I learnt pretty quickly that approaching guys at their club on match days is a big no no!
On a more serious note, I love being able to head up a cricketing brand and carry the flag for the old SS heritage. Women’s cricket is growing fast and I think it is important to keep encouraging the growth. We are lucky to have Katie McGill on board as our first Swannack player. She represents Scotland so it is great to have her with us.
You have just launched a Kickstarter campaign, what are you trying to achieve with this?
We are slightly unusual in that we aren’t selling our bats through retailers. You can only get them online and directly from us. This is what allows us to keep the customer service so personal, and also to make sure that each player is getting the exact bat they want.
The downside, however, is that it takes us a little longer to get the brand out there. Kickstarter is fantastic platform to help us with building brand awareness, plus it gives people the chance to pledge for one of our bats at a hugely reduced cost.
It’s the only time we are planning on using the platform, so it’s a great way for a player to get a bespoke bat and try out a new brand. Our values will stay the same – made to order, with the best quality wood.
How can people get involved with the Kickstarter campaign and support Swannack?
It’s easy. Just use this link. It will take you to our page. You can find out all about the bat designs, pledges and more. You can also watch this video.
It would be awesome to have support from TFT readers! We have pledged to raise £12,000 and are running the campaign for a month until February 21st.
You can also find out more about us at our website www.swannackmadeshop.com. Thanks.