From the late 1950s, a local man, Robert Finbow ran a house clearance and furniture business in Finningham, which survives in the village today in a much diversified form, as Finbows Yard.
During house clearances, Robert occasionally obtained musical boxes and street pianos. Other pieces of memorabilia which caught his eye were quickly acquired and stored away. Over the years he amassed a sizeable collection but until the mid 1970s, when the present Museum building was constructed, there was nowhere to show these treasures to the public.
In 1975 Robert became one of the founders of the Cotton Exhibition, which grew into an annual rally in the village for steam traction engines, vintage cars, lorries, motorcycles and fairground organs. By the early 1980s the Museum housed several fairground organs including a particularly rare Gavioli barrel organ dating from the 1840s and a magnificent 1924 Mortier café organ playing dance music. At one stage the Museum was also home to a steam showman’s tractor “Little Billy”, built by Garrett of Leiston, Suffolk
Around 1980, Robert began searching for a cinema pipe organ to complete his collection and by chance the Wurlitzer organ from the Leicester Square Theatre London was in storage locally. The organ was brought to Cotton and installed in the building by the organ’s owner, David England and the Museum’s resident organist David Ivory. The Museum and the Wurlitzer were officially opened in 1982.
While the large organs look and sound impressive, it is the small musical boxes, disc players and the vast array of bygones and memorabilia on show all round the building which help to reflect the social history of Suffolk at a domestic level.
The museum is run by a group of volunteers who give their time free of charge to show members of the public this unique collection.