Our small, but big sounding Wurlitzer is a model H instrument having two keyboards and eleven ranks (sets) of pipes, plus tuned & untuned percussion, sound effects and an upright piano attachment. It is one of the few Wurlitzer organs that can be played mechanically.
The ranks of the Wurlitzer are:
- Tibia Clausa
- Trumpet (style ‘D’)
- Vox Humana
- Orchestral Oboe
- English Horn
- Violin Celeste
Built by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company of North Tonawanda, New York in 1926, Wurlitzer organ no. 1525 was bound for the ‘Stillwell Theater’ Brooklyn, New York. Its stay was brief following the advent of ‘talking pictures’ and Wurlitzer purchased back, overhauled and shortly dispatched the organ to England to be installed in the Leicester Square Theatre, London. The theatre opened its doors on December 19th 1930 with Frank Newman (from the Regent, Ipswich) at the console. In the 1960’s the theatre was modernised and the organ was sold off for parts. The majority of the organ was purchased by organ & cinema enthusiast David England, who replaced parts of the organ with bits of other Wurlitzer’s of a similar vintage. When Robert Finbow was looking for a Wurlitzer to add to his unique collection, David England came into the picture, a lease was agreed and the Cotton Wurlitzer came to it’s current home. The Museum opened its doors on the 10th October 1982 with a concert by resident organist David Ivory and Nigel Ogden (BBC Radio 2 ‘The Organist Entertains’).
However, in 1995 the lease on the Wurlitzer came to an end and a campaign was started by the museum to purchase the organ so it could remain at Cotton. Kindly, two of the museums regular visitors the late Mr Ken & Mrs Phyllis White purchased the organ and presented it to museum, thus ensuring it kept making the gloriously unique sounds that only a cinema organ can make.
The idea of the cinema organ came from Robert Hope-Jones who developed a remote control of the organ pipes using a mixture of electric wires and pneumatic actions. The organs came into use during the silent movie era as one organist could provide musical accompaniment and sound effects for an entire film. Later on (after the sound revolution) the organs were used as popular entertainment instruments during the interval of a moviegoers’ evening.
The organ is played LIVE every Sunday by a team of organists (both professional and amateur) who give there time free of charge to the museum to entertain the visitors.