The origins of Sutcliffe Play trace back over 100 years to Sutcliffe Engineering. As with many industry innovators and pioneers, the original family business has continued to adapt to changing market conditions throughout its history.
Sutcliffe Play started life in the mining industry and, in particular, with the commitment of Richard Sutcliffe, the great grandfather of current Chairman Robin Sutcliffe, to improving the safety, welfare and efficiency of miners.
Much has changed in the 100 years since then, but not Sutcliffe Play’s absolute focus on innovation, respect for employees, quality and product knowledge.
Over the last century the Sutcliffe name and business focus has been linked to mining, through the manufacture of coal cutters, belt conveyors and impact idlers; with the automotive industry through the production of rubber to metal bondings and with sports through the supply of gym and cricket mats.
The modern day Sutcliffe Play dates back to the early 1980s, when the now Chairman – Robin Sutcliffe, joined the business and the focus was on the development and production of rubber swing seats and safety surfacing. By the mid 1990s Sutcliffe Play was established as a market leader in the design and production of swing seats, not just in the UK but across the world.
When the company’s domination of the playground seat market was threatened by the expiry of key patents, substantial investment was made in the design and production of playground equipment ranges – traditional items such as swings, roundabouts, seesaws, multiplay units etc, as well as more sports related products, notably muga’s (multi-use games areas). Considerable investment has been made in product innovation over the last 20 years. Sutcliffe Play was the first company to develop a range of play equipment for teenagers (Teenzone), a new philosophy and product ranges for “Inclusive play”, and latterly the first to bring in a “loose parts” play system for early years and schools – namely “Snug”.
In addition, in the last 10 years, the company has developed a department dedicated to the design not just of equipment, but also play spaces, headed up by a qualified Landscape Architect. Other services have followed on, for example installation, inspection and maintenance through a dedicated Contracts Department.
Today, the company ranks as one of the world’s leading names in children’s play equipment with 10% of the UK market and 25% of the export market from the UK. Playground equipment is now supplied into local authorities, schools and early years settings, leisure and housing markets and communities worldwide.
2010 saw a significant landmark, when Robin Sutcliffe sold the business to the employees, making Sutcliffe Play the John Lewis of the play industry.