Jeremy Fry

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Jeremy Joseph Fry (19 May 1924 – 18 July 2005) was a British inventor, engineer, entrepreneur, adventurer and arts patron.

Early life[edit]

Born into the Fry family in Bristol, the son of Cecil Roderick Fry who as the last chairman of the J. S. Fry & Sons chocolate concern arranged for the sale of the company to rival Cadbury's, enraging the family.[1] Jeremy was educated at Gordonstoun, and joined the Royal Air Force as a pilot. After the war, Jeremy took up motorsport[2] driving a 500cc Parsenn[3] but quit after his cousin Joe was killed at Blandford.


He became a product designer with Frenchay Products Ltd between 1954 and 1957. He founded Rotork Engineering Company in 1957 after identifying the potential of valve actuators. As Chairman he oversaw Rotork's rise to becoming the market leader in equipment for use in oil and gas pipelines, refineries, power stations and waste water plants, and a member of the FTSE 250 Index.

Noted as an inventor and engineer, his designs included a car, the Sea Truck (a flat boat ferry capable of carrying one car at high speed), and a four-wheel-drive wheelchair. Additionally he was responsible for starting James Dyson out on his own inventing career by mentoring him in 1970 at Rotork.

His friend Tony Richardson, film and theatre director, described Fry (and their many travels together) in his autobiography Long Distance Runner (London, 1993; pp187–90).

Arts patron[edit]

He was noted for his keen interest in the Arts and will be remembered as the saviour of the Theatre Royal, Bath. He bought the theatre in 1979 and as its Chairman oversaw its extensive renovation. In addition to being Chairman of the Northern Ballet Theatre he was the chairman of the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol.

Personal life[edit]

Fry lead an extensive and hedonistic personal life before his first marriage. A good friend of society photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, he was allegedly asked to be best man at Armstrong-Jones's marriage to HRH Princess Margaret the younger sister of HM Queen Elizabeth II. However, Fry was convicted of "importuning for immoral purposes" after allegedly approaching a man for sex, and was replaced as best man to Armstrong-Jones.[4]

Fry married Camilla Grinling in 1955 (died 2000). They lived at Widcombe Manor, and had two sons and two daughters; the marriage was dissolved in 1967.[1] In 2004 their daughter Polly claimed that her biological father had in fact been Armstrong-Jones; Fry described the claim as "utter nonsense".[5]


Fry died in his palace at Tamil Nadu, Madurai, India, on 18 July 2005.[1]