Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Jeremy Fry

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Jeremy Joseph Fry, designer, engineer and business man.

1924 Born in Frenchay, son of Cecil Roderick Fry (1890-1952), last family chairman of the Fry's chocolate firm, and his wife Olave (nee Anderson).

Educated at Gordonstoun School

1942 Left school; joined the RAF, serving as air crew, and later trained as a pilot in North America.

After the war he studied at the Architectural Association School but left without qualifying

Joined his brother, David Fry, at the company he had set up to manufacture components for the aviation industry, Frenchay Products Co

Established the Parsenn Car Co where he designed, built, and raced the Parsenn car (named after his favourite ski-run).

Re-formed Rotork, a small company acquired by Frenchay Products. He began work on the design of motorized valve actuators for pipelines.

1954 Filed the first of many patents; this on torque-actuated devices for use with electric motors; later patents on valve actuators.

1954 married Camilla Grinling, daughter of the landscape painter

After his marriage he bought Widcombe Manor, a Georgian manor house near Bath.

1957 Moved the workshop of Rotork Engineering Co. Ltd to Widcombe Manor.

1968 Rotork became a public company, Rotork Controls Ltd, with Fry as majority shareholder.

1968 James Dyson, a student at the Royal College of Art, approached Fry with an idea for an aluminium, mushroom-shaped theatre. Although Fry did not offer to finance this project, he offered to help Dyson design the auditorium for the Roundhouse theatre in London.

Fry then asked Dyson to help with the design of the Sea Truck, a high-speed, flat-bottomed landing craft.

1968 Fry set up Rotork Marine to make and sell the craft, with Dyson in charge.

1972 When Bangladesh was devastated by floods 100 Sea Trucks were supplied to the Bangladeshi government to help in landing supplies for the victims; Fry spent several months there managing the service depot.

Fry and Dyson set up Prototypes Ltd to develop new products and produce working prototypes which would then be manufactured elsewhere. These included the Squirrel, an outdoor wheelchair with four-wheel drive and power steering, manufactured in collaboration with Lord Snowdon, but this was never a commercial success. Also developed a bagless vacuum cleaner. Dyson later bought Fry out of Prototypes Ltd and set up his own company, the Air Power Vacuum Cleaner Co (later Dyson Ltd), which very successfully developed the upright dual cyclone vacuum cleaner.

1984 Fry retired from Rotork which was by then the leading valve actuation company in the world.

Fry had many other interests, many of which resulted in support for the arts and/or bringing together artists and engineers.

1994 Fry moved to Kerala in southern India where he moved a former palace building up a mountain before moving finally to Tamil Nadu, where he spent the rest of his life.

2005 died on 18 July in Madurai, Tamil Nadu

The James Dyson Foundation established the Jeremy Fry memorial scholarship at the University of Bath to be awarded annually to the engineering student who demonstrated the most inventive flair. As Dyson said: "Jeremy was the most charismatic and inventive of engineering designers … He was such a great inventor, and was very keen to encourage invention and creativity. His real brilliance was to nurture and help young engineers, to whom he showed huge generosity." [1]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Bath Chronicle, 17 Nov 2005
  • Biography of Jeremy Fry, ODNB