Select Fry Miscellany

Here are some Fry stories and accounts over the years:

A Quaker Burial Ground

A Quaker burial ground, visited by members for centuries, lies amid the 1,130 acre Ashcombe estate of Madonna and her film director husband Guy Ritchie on the Wiltshire/Dorset border.  The site was established in 1663 when William Fry, the then owner of the estate, became a Quaker.  At that time Quakers were being persecuted and they had no other safe place to lay their dead to rest.

Ms. Acton, a member of the Quaker group in Shaftesbury, said: "We are not interested in Madonna's estate as such, we are only interested in the burial ground."  The Quakers scatter ashes of the dead during funerals at the site.  They also stage a pilgrimage and worship gathering there once every ten years.

The Fry's home in the nearby village of Sutton Benger had been the Quaker meeting house.  It is now the Vintage Inn.

The Fry Quaker Meetings at Sutton Benger

It was in Sutton Benger that the Fry family established themselves as leading Quakers in Wiltshire.  William’s son Zephaniah was the first member of the family to fully embrace the Quaker faith.   A record of one meeting held in his house was given in George Fox’s Journals:

“At Frye’s in Wiltshire we had a very blessed meeting and quiet, though the officers had purposed to break it up by thieves, and they were required to go back again with speed, to search after and pursue them; by which our meeting escaped disturbance and we were preserved out of their hands.”

However, private meetings of more than five persons were forbidden at that time.  Once arrested, Quakers would be ordered to take the oath of allegiance, which they would often refuse to do.   Zephaniah was arrested in 1683 and sent to Ilchester jail for three months, but “emerged unscarred.

Joseph Fry and His Chocolate

In 1756 Joseph Fry started making chocolate at a factory in Bristol.  In those days eating chocolate was unknown.  Consumers would make a chocolate drink by placing a chocolate tablet at the bottom of a cup and adding hot water or milk.  Chocolate production, often handicapped by an inadequate supply of raw materials, was small.  Heavy import duties excluded all but the richest people from its purchase.  One pound of Fry's famous chocolate retailed for 35p, roughly a week's wages for an agricultural laborer at the time. 

Fry's introduced their first eating chocolate in 1848.  Demand for cocoa and chocolate increased, particularly after the heavy duty on cocoa was repealed.  From 1860 to World War One, factory after factory was built to meet the increased trade.  By 1907 the company had eight factories in Bristol around Union Street and two more in Princes Street and Cannons Marsh.  They were employing 4,500 people.

Edward Fry and His Offspring

While Joseph Storrs Fry, the eldest son, headed up the Fry's chocolate business after 1886, his brother Edward was a judge on the British Court of Appeal.  He became known worldwide for his skilled work as a negotiator at the Hague Tribunal in 1907.

Sir Edward's children were equally impressive:

  • son Roger, artist and member of the Bloomsbury group
  • and daughters Joan, Margery, and Ruth, all Quakers and prison reforrmers, pacifists and peace activists.
Another daughter Agnes was a co-writer with him on several scientific treatises and later wrote a biography of him.

Charles Fry and The Salvation Army

Brass bands were introduced into the Salvation Army by Charles Fry, a builder from Salisbury.  Born in 1837, he led the local Wesleyan Methodist choir and had been a cornet player with the First Wiltshire Volunteer Rifle Band. 

Fry and his three teenage sons played at an open air Salvation Army meeting in 1878.  They performed, it would appear, to deflect the attention of hooligans from other Salvationists rather than for any musical reason.  However, Booth got to hear of their exploits and the Fry family subsequently accompanied him on some of his most challenging and important campaigns.

The Ancestry of Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry - the English actor, comedian and writer - was born in Hampstead, London in 1957.  He was the son of Alan and Marianne (nee Newman) Fry.

Alan Fry was a British physicist and inventor.  His
Fry family had originated in Dorset.  His ancestor William Fry was born in Shillingstone near Blandford in 1687.  William’s grandson Samuel Fry moved to Surrey in the early 1800’s, with his descendants settling in Middlesex.  Many of these Fry ancestors were Quakers and they were related to Joseph Fry and the Fry family who founded the chocolate company.  An ancestor John Fry had signed the death warrant for Charles I in 1648.

Alan’s wife was Jewish.  Her parents, Martin and Rosa Neumann, were Hungarian Jews who emigrated to Britain in 1927.  Rosa’s parents had lived in Vienna and were sent in 1942 to a concentration camp in Latvia where they were murdered by the Nazis.


The Fry Source of Colon Cancer

George Fry married in Somerset in 1615 and he and his wife had four children in England between 1615 and 1624.  The couple, along with two of their children, arrived in New England some time before 1640.  According to a study recently published, this family almost certainly brought with them a unique genetic mutation for colon cancer.

Scientists have traced two branches of the family from the two children, one in upstate New York and the other in Utah.  The family in Utah, with more than 5,000 people, has been the focus of scientific study for 14 years because of their unfortunate high rates of colon cancer.  The mutation has not been found in England, meaning that it most likely originated with either Mr. or Mrs. Fry. 

Dr. Albert de la Chapelle at Ohio State University's Comprehensive Cancer Center commented:

"It is a neat story of so-called founder mutation, that is one that from its origin in a single individual has multiplied in a given population so that today it is carried by members of ostensibly unrelated families who yet descend from the one founder.  It is usually a metter of chance whether such a mutation becomes more and more widespread with time, or whether it disappears.  This phenomenon is called genetic drift.  In this case the mutation appears to have spread, but perhaps not excessively so."

Heinrich Frey and His Descendants

According to the historian Abraham M. Cassel, Heinrich Frey and Joseph Blatenbach were to first two German emigrants to Pennsylvania.  Heinrich came from Altheim in the Palatinate in Germany and was a wood worker; Joseph came from Bruchsal and was an iron worker.  They arrived in Philadelphia in 1680.

Heinrich and Joseph lived among the Indians at a point where three Indian trails met.  The story goes that the Indian chief took them to the top of one of the hills and told them he was giving them all the land they could see.  It amounted to 1,000 acres.  When William Penn's agent arrived in 1682 to found Philadelphia, he honored the claim.

Heinrich married Anna Levering in Germantown in 1692 and they had nine children.  The family was among the earliest settlers of Towamencin.  They were important citizens and large landowners there in colonial and later times.

George Fry The Legend

George Fry, Superintendant of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, began keeping a daily diary as a 14 year old schoolboy in Ephrata, Pennsylvania.  His writings have resulted in a 329 page memoir entitled George Fry The Legend.  Selectively edited by his daughter Georgiana Fry Vines, it details events from his childhood and college days in Pennsylvania until his retirement in 1973.  Most of the manuscript is devoted to documenting experiences with the National Park Service.

Reader Feedback - Fry Confusions

I am trying to trace back my own Fry family name 'legacy' with the assistance of one of my sons and, during my latest explorations which have been quite challenging I came across a Fry name listing which seemed to me to be a potentially confusing inclusion. 

If you feel that I am 'nit-picking' I apologise in advance.  But, as a semi-retired journalist, it struck me that any Fry Family names listed ought to be soundly-based on a foundation of 'genuine' Fry family history, from whichever Fry branch they originate - if they are to be useful to researchers in years to  come.  

Accordingly wouldn't it reduce the possibilities of confusion in the future if those who have decided to assume the surname of Fry, or indeed of any other traditional British name (in their understandable move to integrate into our  generally welcoming society), should be listed together with their original name and former nationality? Surely that could save researchers a lot of time and effort. 

Tony Fry, a Derbyshire--based Fry (

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