Jeremy Fry

Jeremy Fry

Jeremy Fry, industrialist, inventor and socialite was born on the 24th May 1924 in Bristol, the youngest of three children. His father, Cecil Fry, was the last member of the Quaker family to chair the Fry's Chocolate firm. He went to school at Gordonstoun from where he won a place at the Architectural Association School. During the Second World War he served as RAF aircrew.

Jeremy was too young to join in with Joe and David's pre-war hill climbing with the original Freikaiserwagen and CAPA activities but took up the sport on being demobbed including driving a Bugatti on the hills and then commissioning the Parsenn from Keith Steadman in 1949. He failed to finish in the Grand Prix in May then took a respectable second at Shelsley Walsh in June to the Cooper of Eric Brandon and finally won at Bouley Bay in July. In September, he was fastest 500 in the 750cc class at Shelsley, beating Peter Collins but could only manage tenth at Weston-super-Mare on 8th October, with Keith in fifteenth. For some reason, Dennis Poore appears in the car through the Spring of 1950 but Jeremy was back for Shelsley in June for fastest time, beating Collins and Lones but doesn't appear again, cousin Joe being killed at Blandford in July.

Jeremy tackles Bottom Esse, Shelsley September 1949. Photo courtesy Shelsley Archive

Jeremy became a successful industrialist. He invented the modern electric valve actuator, and with a small inheritance, bought Rotork Controls in 1957 as a vehicle to manufacture and market his creations. Today the company is a world leader in manufacturing equipment used in oil and gas pipelines. At Rotork Fry took on a young James Dyson and together they developed the sea truck, a high-speed landing craft that secured them many awards. Dyson went on to create the ball-barrow and the successful vacuum cleaner. With his old friend Armstrong-Jones, Fry reinvented the wheelchair, creating a four-wheel drive model with power steering known as the Squirrel.

Fry’s home, Widcombe Manor, near Bath was renowned for memorable parties and guests including Princess Margaret and her fiancé. He bought and restored the Theatre Royal, Bath, and acquired and renovated the entire French hamlet of Le Grand Blanc in the Basses-Alpes with the intention of creating a retreat for thinkers and intellectuals.

In the grounds below the manor’s terrace the Frys and their royal guests would go motorcycle scrambling. After his divorce Fry was compelled to sell Widcombe. He later lived in the Royal Crescent for a time before moving out of Bath to the village of Freshford nearby. Fry supported many projects in Bath, in 1979 he bought the Theatre Royal and transformed it into a popular venue that was formally reopened by Princess Margaret three years later. He was chairman of Northern Ballet Theatre and the Arnolfini in Bristol. He stepped down as chairman of Rotork in 1985 and from 1992 had lived on his 150-acre plantation in the Cardamom Hills in Kerala, southern India, growing tea and cardamom and enjoying his fine collection of art. Jeremy Fry died on 18th June 2005, aged 81.