The outbreak of the second world war had a devastating effect on many companies, including Cooke’s where many piano factories in and around London were turned over to the war effort, with their craftsmen building wooden aircraft frames rather than pianos.
After the war, Cooke’s, now under ownership of Mr A.W. Cooke the second and his son Arthur Jr, used their considerable skills to recondition older pianos as new pianos were very difficult to find. Arthur Jr was a determined entrepreneur and in an effort to revive the company joined the home electronic movement and began selling televisions in the 1950s and actively reconditioning pre-war pianos. The expansion meant a new apprentice was required, and a young Bill Kilgour joined Cookes. Bill would later become managing director of the company.
The swinging 60s saw the introduction of a new instrument to the U.K, the Hammond organ. Arthur Jr had the foresight to see the huge potential of the instrument and became the Hammond organ dealer for all of Norfolk. The 70s saw a period of considerable growth, Hammond organs and pianos were selling very well and Cooke’s began selling Miller church organs. It was also around this time that Steven Battle, who would later become owner of the company (and recently celebrated 50 years with us!), joined the team.
The mid 80s saw Arthur Cooke the third retire, leaving Bill and Steven determined to uphold the reputation which had been built and established over 100 years. Since then, the Cooke’s Keyboard School has been opened above the shop, teaching hundreds of children and adults to play piano, keyboard and organ, and introducing them to the joys of making music.
Around this time, Cookes was also approached by Millers Music. Barry Robinson, former owner of Millers, had explored buying Cookes pianos in 1989 but the deal had ultimately fallen through with Arthur Cooke ultimately selling to Steve and Bill. They had successfully run the business together for 27 years but approaching retirement they approached Simon Pollard, Managing Director of Millers and a deal was reached in September of 2016. Cooke’s now remains part of the Millers group and the two showrooms continue to work harmoniously together! Read more about the history of Millers Music here.
It's hard not to wonder what our founder Arthur Cooke would think of Cookes today, especially with the advent of electric and electronic instruments! We're sure, like us, he would be proud that the Cooke’s name remains synonymous with supplying quality musical instruments and service and continues to inspire more and more people to start their musical journeys!