Cookes celebrates its amazing 130th anniversary

In 1887 Arthur William Cooke set up a music shop in Norwich and the Cookes family has been running a family music business ever since.

The name of Cookes has been part of the Norfolk music scene since the 19th century, when they specialised in selling pianos. Since then, the family has continued supplying musical instruments to people to the present day – an amazing 130 years.

Brian Morrison (Arthur Cooke’s grandson and founder of Cookes Band Instruments) recalls “Some of my earliest childhood memories are of living above the piano shop. Both my mother and uncle (also Arthur Cooke) had lovely voices and would burst into song all the time. I also clearly remember my grandfather regularly practicing on his grand piano.”

He added “At the height of the swinging sixties and start of pop music I identified a gap in the music market – for guitars and amplifiers which had become very popular during that decade. I went to the family with my suggestion and it was decided that I’d start a new music shop selling instruments and accessories for bands.” 

The family gave him a small amount of money to start up a new business and in 1965 he opened Cookes Band Instruments from a rented shop in St Margaret’s Street. At the start, business was slow and Brian travelled around in the evenings to gigs and practice sessions taking equipment along for the bands to try. This proved successful and within 3 years he had made enough money to buy the premises they are currently in on St Benedicts Street. 

The shop is in what was the old Prince of Wales public house. Today the business is run by Brian’s son Matthew Morrison – the 5th generation of the Cookes family to run a Cooke’s music shop in Norwich.

Matthew, Managing Director of Cookes Band Instruments, commented “I’ve always been interested in music. It’s been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. I started in the shop when I was 14, having a Saturday job and working after school, and now I’m running the business.

We went on to explain "We are real people in a real shop who really care about providing our customers with the best products and service. The most satisfying thing is that we have customers who have regularly been coming into the shop for 30-40 years.

Matthew and the team supply guitars, live sound and PA systems, recording products, specialist lighting and effects and have the largest drum showroom in the region. The team sources all the equipment, prepares it for sale, sells it and services it and the business has many, many customers coming back year after year. 

As with many family businesses, the problem of succession has arisen. Matthew is hoping his daughter will be interested in taking over from him when he finally has had enough. However, he doesn’t think he’ll be retiring anytime soon.

As well as the shop at 34 St Benedicts Street in Norwich the company has kept up to date with technology and has an online music store so people can shop on the go while still benefitting from the same, trusted service from the team at Cookes. 

If you need expert advice on any of the products we sell, you can call the team on 01603 623563 or pop into the shop.