Thursford Collection

Last updated

Thursford Collection
Thursford Collection
Location Thursford, Norfolk, England
Type Steam power, entertainment and farming heritage
Website Thursford Collection

The Thursford Collection is a museum located in Thursford, Norfolk. Founded by local man George Cushing, it is now known for the scale of its collection of steam engines, organs and fairground attractions, and its annual Christmas spectacular show, which draws over 100,000 people to the Norfolk countryside.


The Thursford Collection is a registered charity under English law. [1]

George Cushing

George Thomas Henry Cushing MBE was born at Thursford on 25 March 1904, the son of a farm labourer. After leaving school aged 12, he became a farmhand, but had developed a childhood fascination with steam engines. In 1920 he travelled to the King's Lynn Mart, and got a job driving a steam roller. Having bought a 1913 Aveling and Porter roller from the local council with savings of £225, Cushing set up his own sub-contracting business, which had expanded to 15 steam rollers and a steam wagon by World War II. [2]

Laurel Farm

By the late 1930s, steam was on the wane from commercial usage as diesel lorries became more popular. To Cushing, it was "as though the crown jewels were being sold for scrap", and he began to buy up redundant steam engines, storing and then restoring them at Laurel Farm, where he had worked as a child and now owned. This was also where he raised his own family of three boys with his wife Minnie. [2]

Thursford Museum

Entrance to the Thursford Collection (September 2007) Entrance to the Thursford Collection from carpark - - 570056.jpg
Entrance to the Thursford Collection (September 2007)

As Cushing's collection grew, more enthusiasts travelled to Thursford to help restore and then view his collection. Thus, in the 1970s Cushing opened his museum in what was then a series of old farm sheds, and would personally tour the audience between exhibits, most often dressed in a countryman's flat cap, tweed jacket and muffler over baggy jumper, trousers and gumboots. He would then shake each visitor's hand, and ask departing guests with a blunt "Did yer loik it, then?" [2]

The original museum had limited opening times, but Cushing expanded the attraction to include a gift shop and tea rooms, and opened seven days a week during the summer season. In 1982 he co-wrote, with Ian Starsmore, Steam at Thursford. [3] For the scale of his efforts in saving much of Britain's steam heritage, Cushing was appointed an MBE in 1989. [2]

Thursford Collection

In 1976 on the death of his wife Minnie, Cushing realised his collection could be subject to death duties when he died, and so set up the Thursford Collection as a trust endowed charity. Now run by his youngest son, John, the Thursford Collection attracts 170,000 visitors a year. Cushing died on 26 February 2003, at the age of 98. [2]

The collection today includes a Mighty Wurlitzer which is the fourth-largest in Europe, and has a total of 1,339 pipes. The Wurlitzer was rescued from the Paramount Theatre / Odeon Cinema Leeds. There is also a 19th-century gondola merry-go-round which was built in the Norfolk factory of Frederick Savage, decorated with carved heads depicting Queen Victoria and her family, including the German Kaiser Wilhelm II.

The collection and museum is now famous for its popular summer and winter shows. The annual Christmas "Spectaculars" attract coachloads of devotees from around the country, and must be booked months in advance.

One of the organs in the collection, a Wellershaus, was seen and heard in the Dad's Army episode Everybody's Trucking, originally aired on 15 November 1974.

See also

Related Research Articles

Traction engine Steam powered haulage engine

A traction engine is a self-propelled steam engine used to move heavy loads on roads, plough ground or to provide power at a chosen location. The name derives from the Latin tractus, meaning 'drawn', since the prime function of any traction engine is to draw a load behind it. They are sometimes called road locomotives to distinguish them from railway locomotives – that is, steam engines that run on rails.

Steamroller Steam powered road roller

A steamroller is a form of road roller – a type of heavy construction machinery used for leveling surfaces, such as roads or airfields – that is powered by a steam engine. The levelling/flattening action is achieved through a combination of the size and weight of the vehicle and the rolls: the smooth wheels and the large cylinder or drum fitted in place of treaded road wheels.

Bredgar and Wormshill Light Railway

The Bredgar & Wormshill Light Railway (BWLR) is located near the villages of Wormshill and Bredgar in Kent, just south of Sittingbourne. It is a 2 ft narrow gauge railway about one-half mile (0.8 km) in length.

Bressingham Steam and Gardens

Bressingham Steam & Gardens is a steam museum and gardens located at Bressingham, west of Diss in Norfolk, England. The site has several narrow gauge rail lines and a number of types of steam engines and vehicles in its collection and is also the home of the national Dad's Army exhibition.

Hollycombe Steam Collection

The Hollycombe Steam Collection is a collection of steam-powered vehicles, rides and attractions based near Liphook in Hampshire. The collection includes fairground rides, a display farm and two railways.

Aveling and Porter Steam engineering company, best known for their road rollers

Aveling and Porter was a British agricultural engine and steamroller manufacturer. Thomas Aveling and Richard Thomas Porter entered into partnership in 1862, and developed a steam engine three years later in 1865. By the early 1900s, the company had become the largest manufacturer of steamrollers in the world.

Broadland (UK Parliament constituency) Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom, 2010 onwards

Broadland is a Norfolk constituency, which has been represented in parliament since the 2019 general election by Jerome Mayhew, a Conservative.

"Everybody's Trucking" is the first episode of the seventh series of the British television sitcom Dad's Army. It was originally transmitted on 15 November 1974.

The Strumpshaw Hall Steam Museum in Strumpshaw, Norfolk is home to a collection of Traction engines, Steam rollers, a Showman's engine and a Steam wagon which are run on special occasions and on the last Sunday of each month from April to October.

Showmans road locomotive

A showman's road locomotive or showman's engine is a steam-powered road-going 'locomotive' designed to provide power and transport for a travelling funfair or circus. Similar to other road-going traction engines, showman's engines were normally distinguished by the addition of a full-length canopy, a dynamo mounted in front of the chimney, and brightly coloured paintwork with ornate decorations. The dynamo was used to generate electricity to illuminate and power various fairground rides. Although originally the ride's motion was powered by an internal steam engine, some later rides were driven direct from the showman's engine via a belt drive.

Thursford Human settlement in England

Thursford is a village and civil parish in the county of Norfolk, eastern England. The village is 16.3 miles southwest of Cromer, 24.5 miles northwest of Norwich and 121 miles north-east of London. The village lies 6.9 miles northwest of the nearby town of Fakenham. The nearest railway station is at Sheringham for the Bittern Line which runs between Sheringham, Cromer and Norwich. The nearest airport is Norwich International Airport. The village once had its own Thursford railway station which is now closed. It is a proposed stop on the Norfolk Orbital Railway.

Alan Herbert Vauser Bloom was a British horticulturist and steam engine enthusiast. During his life he created over 170 new varieties of hardy perennial plants. These and Alpine plants and conifers were his specialities. He invented the garden feature of freestanding island beds, set in open lawn. He wrote some 30 books and appeared on radio and television.

Royal Air Force Museum Cosford Aviation museum in RAF Cosford, Shropshire

The Royal Air Force Museum Cosford, located in Cosford in Shropshire, is a museum dedicated to the history of aviation and the Royal Air Force in particular. The museum is part of the Royal Air Force Museum, a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Ministry of Defence and a registered charity. The museum is spread over two sites in England; the other site is at the Royal Air Force Museum London at Colindale in north London.

Scarborough Fair Collection

The Scarborough Fair Collection is a museum of fairground mechanical organs and showman's engines, located in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, one of the largest collections of its type in Europe.

Cambridge Museum of Technology Industrial heritage museum in Cambridge, England

The Cambridge Museum of Technology is an industrial heritage museum situated in Cambridge, England. The original building, a Scheduled Ancient Monument, housed a combined sewage pumping and waste destructor station built in 1894.

Philip Julian "Phil" Kelsall MBE ALCM is an English theatre organist who has been principal organist at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom since 1977. Born in Warrington he was inspired to learn the instrument by Reginald Dixon and was initially appointed as organist for the Tower Circus band aged 18 in 1975; he also deputised for Ernest Broadbent in the Ballroom itself. This followed his attending Rossall School in Fleetwood, an independent day and boarding school where he was taught by Robin Proctor who subsequently became Director of Music at Cheltenham College. After Ernest Broadbent's retirement, he was appointed Tower organist in 1977.

Nottingham Industrial Museum museum in the 17th century stables block of Wollaton Hall, Nottingham, England

The Nottingham Industrial Museum is a volunteer-run museum situated in part of the 17th-century stables block of Wollaton Hall, located in a suburb of the city of Nottingham. The museum won the Nottinghamshire Heritage Site of the Year Award 2012, a local accolade issued by Experience Nottinghamshire. The Museum collection closed in 2009 after Nottingham City Council withdrew funding, but has since reopened at weekends and bank holidays, helped by a £91,000 government grant, and run by volunteers. The museum contains a display of local textiles machinery, transport, telecommunications, mining and engineering technology. There is a display of cycles, motorcycles, and motor cars. There are examples of significant lace-making machinery. It also houses an operational beam engine, from the Basford, Nottingham pumping station.

Charles Burrell Museum Thetford, Breckland, Norfolk, IP24

The Charles Burrell Museum is a museum in Thetford in Norfolk, England, dedicated to steam power and steam transport.

Music House Museum

The Music House Museum has a collection of restored antique musical instruments, early radios, and recordings. It is housed in a 1909 dairy barn and a 1905 granary farmhouse, located between the communities of Acme and Williamsburg in Grand Traverse County of Northern Michigan. It was established in 1983 and is a result of a hobby by an architect and a mechanical engineer.


  1. Charity Commission. THE THURSFORD COLLECTION, registered charity no. 272307.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "George Cushing". The Telegraph. 21 March 2003. Retrieved 6 May 2008.[ dead link ]
  3. Cushing, George and Starsmore, Ian (1982). Steam At Thursford. David & Charles. ISBN   9780715381540

Coordinates: 52°52′16″N0°56′25″E / 52.8712°N 0.9403°E / 52.8712; 0.9403