Talking Bats With Charlotte Surridge

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.

James Morgan

2018-02-06T09:35:14+00:00 February 5th, 2018|Interviews|26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. BobW February 6, 2018 at 9:46 am - Reply

    Only had one SS and that was the Jumbo. Bought at Lilywhites in Piccadilly in London when it used to be a very highly rated sports shop. I’m sure it had the Lilywhite stamp on too. Lovely piece of wood though. I can remember the first forward defensive shot I played with it. The ball seemed to go about 20 yards further than previously. Not the best of balanced bats but the extra wood especially nearer the top end of the bat made a difference. It wasn’t the best bat I ever had but one I had very fond memories of.
    I used to love Lilywhites in those days. It had a superb cricket section. So many bats that you could try out. As a kid I’d be up there every couple of months waving the bats about nearly decapitating anyone within hooking distance of the bat. Then one day I had enough money saved up from a summer job and bought my first bat from there aged 16. My pride and joy.

  2. Vashtar February 6, 2018 at 9:55 am - Reply

    I had a second hand SS, the one with the white cover. When that got ragged my Dad removed it and the bat underneath was still in great shape. Loved that bat, although i became a bowler!

    • BoredIn Austria February 6, 2018 at 2:07 pm - Reply

      I had that white covered SS as well! First bat I owned. We had concrete nets in suburban Cape Townand practice a lot with cork balls, so the cover became somewhat fatigued after a while. Underneath was a superb bat, only it lost the SS badge. Lovely bat. My hero was Clive Rice, so I had the back-lift and all…. Did pick up a Jumbo a few times, but it was far too heavy for me. At some stage I bought a red SS T-shirt that was my favourite practice gear. Good luck to the Surridge family.
      PS – I can not remember if the famous advertisement of a naked Clive Rice wearing only his cricket bat actually featured the Jumbo…

  3. Marc Evans February 6, 2018 at 10:05 am - Reply

    It’s an odd one with cricket bats, a bit like jeans. Are you a Levi or Wrangler man, when out of principle you wouldn’t be seen dead wearing ‘the enemy’ brand.
    Personally I was a Levi man and still am, along with Gunn&Moore, probably due to the fact that for many years I used one that had been Ken Barrington’s for a season. However, due to lack of practice and opportunity these days I just use what’s at hand, well that’s my excuse for a pretty dismal average anyway. I bet you used a Duncan Fearnley eh James?
    As bats are easily recognisable with their branded markings I would have baulked at walking out with an SS. Did try a Jumbo in the nets once, out of curiosity, having seen Allan Lamb knock the cockerill off the top of the scoreboard at Edgbaston with what seemed like a forward push, but you needed to be Geoff Capes to wield it properly.
    What I miss most about not owning my own bat is the pre-season anticipation and prep, with the smell of dubbin and linseed pervading the house. My mum loved the smell, so as a youngun I was allowed to do the job in the kitchen.
    Unfortunately my lad never had much enthusiasm for sport till he went into the army, by then it was too late.

    • James Morgan February 6, 2018 at 10:23 am - Reply

      I did indeed use a DF when I was a kid. Used to go to the factory in Worcester to test them out!

      • BobW February 6, 2018 at 12:31 pm - Reply

        James, I did the same with Newburys who were based in Robertsbridge, Kent at the time. Nothing like going into a bat making factory with hundreds of bats to choose from. I’d pick five bats that I liked, then asked the bat maker to recommend one.

        • James Morgan February 6, 2018 at 1:28 pm - Reply

          Good idea, Bob. Like the methodology!

    • Max Sawyer February 6, 2018 at 11:46 am - Reply

      If I had owned a bat that had belonged to the great Ken Barrington I would not have used it – I would have worshipped it!

      • James Morgan February 6, 2018 at 12:14 pm - Reply

        There’s a picture in my old school pavilion of Gary Sobers playing an air shot my old bat!

      • Marc Evans February 6, 2018 at 11:08 pm - Reply

        Was only 14 at the time, and more interested in worshiping Francis and Latchford, being a die hard blue nose.
        Amazingly, bearing in mind the weights of today’s bats, it was only a 2lbs 2oz job, so I had no difficulty wielding it. Never made 100 with it though. Got to 96 once and tried to finish the job like Ken with a six but holed out. How’s that for kismet?

    • Mark Eldridge February 6, 2018 at 12:18 pm - Reply

      May I disagree with your assessment of the Jumbo? I used several (and an SS) over about 10 – 12 years in a decent level of cricket and it is a matter of taste. They were quite difficult bats to choose because of the weight. If the distribution was right for the individual, they picked up fine and were very powerful and not too difficult to time the ball with. Most of my chums who used them were strong front foot players and one is tempted to say they were less suited to the back foot and cross-batted shots. Not so, of course, when you consider the very fine all round players who used them at Test level. I would suggest they were a bat ahead of their time – didn’t suit everyone – but I wouldn’t have played with anything else at that stage. I think it unfair to call them “sloggers bats” as one contributor has. They were good enough for Sir Viv and Graham Gooch or several seasons.

      Modern bats have gone on several stages. How depressing to beat a player through the air as a spin bowler and still be mishit for 6!

      • BobW February 6, 2018 at 12:34 pm - Reply

        Absolutely right in your assessment. The weight and balance did make it difficult to play cross batted shots. But on low bouncing English wickets it was a boon. As for Richards and Gooch. They often had bats tailored to their taste and the labels would be stuck on after as per the bat sponsorship deal.

  4. Max Sawyer February 6, 2018 at 11:43 am - Reply

    Re. Vashtar’s below:
    My first bat was the same, a secondhand Vellum Driver – it lasted for years. I also became a bowler.

  5. Chris Hurst February 6, 2018 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Could never pick an SS up. Always too heavy. A sloggers bat…

    Best bat I ever had was a Centurion. The club pro (Doug Marillier) insisted on using it for fielding practice which was the only time it ever got a proper work out.

    There was another that had to be retired after been signed by Gary Sobers that time he poppped into school James. To be fair it only ever got used for the occasional forward defence!

    • James Morgan February 6, 2018 at 12:18 pm - Reply

      I don’t think my bat got used for much more than forward defences either in those days! I was always so scared to get out. Could hear Roger Tolchard’s words in my ear “What you doing, Morgs? Think. Think!” I once made 40 and he berated me for missing 10 quick singles. To be fair he was completely right! I was a dozy sod. Even missed the team photo, which I will always, always regret. We had a great team spirit when we were in the upper 6th with all those young guys coming in. The previous year was a write off. Happy memories.

      • Marc Evans February 6, 2018 at 11:33 pm - Reply

        Now there was a class act. Can’t remember the last time I heard Tolchard’s name mentioned in any cricketing context.

  6. AB February 6, 2018 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    I’ve had Gray Nicolls, Gunn and Moore, Hunts County, Kookaburra, Newbury, Slazenger. You name it, I’ve broken it.

    Never had a SS though, although I do remember the popularity of the Jumbo in the early 90s.

    Currently have a new E3 that I’m just breaking in in nets. Seems alright so far – wide grains means it takes a while to break in, but it should last me a good few seasons, I’m hoping.

    Looked at the website, balked at the prices which start at £280, almost twice as much as my current custom made bat. I’d want a full 3 year no quibble replacement guarantee for that.

    I also notice the profiles are quite old-fashioned with minimal scooping on the kratos and no scooping at all on the other two. Any reason why?

    • Marc Evans February 6, 2018 at 11:29 pm - Reply

      Found my favourite bat, a white Gray Nichols, in the spinny opposite our house. I was a small youth and it was Harrow size, so I was able to use it for years, using a poker to inscribe all my scores with it on the back. How tacky’s that?

  7. Hamish February 6, 2018 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    My first bat was an SS Jumbo with the white covering in the late 70s when Sir Viv used one before he switched to the DF VR5. Loved it. My sister briefly went out with one of the Surridges at Uni in the mid 80s but ditched him before I could get a bat out of him….gutted.

    I was never attached to any specific bat maker – my 2 favourites I owned were a DF Magnum from about 1984 and a SG Sunny Tunny I got from our school cricket pro who made his test debut with Gavaskar.

  8. AndyB February 6, 2018 at 10:29 pm - Reply

    I remember borrowing a Jumbo for one knock and saying never again. The issue was simple. If you were a front foot player it was fine. I was, and still am, happier on the back foot and for that a light bat is essential. And over the years I have found myself moving to lighter and lighter bats, in common with the other elderly members of my club. I now use a 2lb 7oz Kookaburra Blade which is getting old, but am reluctant to change as I have not found anything with a similarly light feel. There is a niche for any bat manufacturer prepared to market light bats to older players (preferably with a long handle option).

    • Mike Chaffin February 13, 2018 at 2:29 am - Reply

      I wanted a light longblade to try out..

      So I ordered a couple of Indian bats off ebay, for about £30, and took my various power sanders to them.

      Got one down to 2lb 1oz and I’ll wait till I have a decent waft in the nets before deciding how much to take off the other. The great thing with the Indian bats is they’re so thick you can finish them however you like.

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  10. Cricket-Now February 11, 2018 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    Nice and Informative article!

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