Fry, Sir Geoffrey Storrs, 1888-1960 (1st Baronet and ministerial secretary)
- Existence: 1888 - 1960
Fry, Geoffrey Storrs (1888-1960), secretary to Andrew Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin. Geoffrey Storrs Fry  was born on 27 July 1888, the younger son of Francis James Fry and his second wife Elizabeth ('Bessie') née Pass. Francis Fry was a director of J. S. Fry & Sons of Bristol, chocolate and cocoa manufacturers, and a prominent figure in the public life of the city: a councillor and alderman, a member of the governing bodies of the university college, the public dispensary and other organisations, and a leader of the Quaker community. He was also squire of the parish of Cricket St. Thomas in Somerset. He took a serious interest in several branches of science and was a keen traveller abroad (both of which aspects of his life are reflected in the small group of his papers in the present collection) . Geoffrey Fry was educated at Haseley Manor preparatory school (1898-1901) and at Harrow (1901-05). He followed his elder brother Harold (born in 1886) to King's College, Cambridge (1905-08), where he read classics and took a third class in both parts of the Tripos. Among his friends at King's was Rupert Brooke . After Cambridge, Fry entered Lincoln's Inn, and in 1913 was called to the Bar. In June 1915 he married a lady whom he had known for several years, Alathea Gardner, younger daughter of the first and only Baron Burghclere and his second wife Winifred . The Frys had one child, Jennifer, born in 1916. Geoffrey Fry's letters to Alathea, mostly written during the 1920s, form by far the largest component of the papers catalogued below. Geoffrey Fry did not serve in the armed forces during the First World War , but worked at the Home Office (1915-17) and the Treasury (1917-19); and was then appointed private secretary to Andrew Bonar Law, Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons. He gave up the post when Bonar Law resigned in 1921, but rejoined him after he became Prime Minister in October 1922. On Bonar Law's retirement through ill-health in May 1923, Fry transferred his services to his successor Stanley Baldwin, remaining with him for sixteen years . His private financial resources allowed him to undertake his secretaryships without salary, and he was thus enabled to follow Baldwin when the latter went out of office in 1924 and 1929, and after his retirement in 1937 . Fry rapidly gained the reputation of an ideal private secretary: efficient, discreet, self-effacing and without inconvenient personal or political ambition. In the Prime Minister's office he took as his especial area of expertise the sometimes thorny field of ecclesiastical patronage, charming, soothing and fending-off the stream of applicants for Crown livings and higher preferment ('fun with Bishops and Deans', as Fry himself described his work ). For Baldwin he felt the affection, admiration and loyalty that 'SB' seems to have inspired in most of those who worked closely with him. Sadly, the Fry papers contain relatively little concerning either the political world as seen by Fry, or the day-to-day work of the Prime Minister's secretariat, beyond a number of references in letters from Baldwin to Fry, and in Fry's letters to his wife . At the beginning of 1921, Geoffrey Fry purchased Oare House in the Vale of Pewsey, described by his friend and adviser Clough Williams Ellis as 'a gem not lightly to be thrown asideÂ I have never seen a place of its size that I liked so well' . This was to be the Frys' principal home for the next forty years, although they also maintained a London house until the early 1940s . Sir Geoffrey seems to have spent most of his time in the country after his retirement from his private secretaryship, and a bout of physical and mental exhaustion, in the autumn of 1939. Neither his health nor that of Lady Fry was robust. The illness in 1939 appears to have been brought on by the strain of accompanying Baldwin on a visit to the United States, coupled with anxiety over the outbreak of war . Among the Frys' neighbours at Oare was the historian G. M. Young, who had been appointed by Baldwin as his official biographer. Fry gave Young such assistance and advice as he required; but he was not shown any part of the manuscript , and shared the general disappointment of Baldwin's family, friends and admirers at the portrait that emerged from the published volume. He took a close interest in the progress of the research and writing of a more sympathetic biography by Baldwin's younger son Windham (afterwards third Earl Baldwin), provided valuable insights into Baldwin's personality, introduced Windham to useful contacts, and was one of several friends who read the work in manuscript . 1. Referred to throughout the catalogue as 'GSF'. 2. F. J. Fry was followed in his public interests by the daughter of his first marriage, Norah (1871-1960), who was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge, and later became the first female member of Somerset County Council, a founder of Somerset's Mental Welfare Association and Nursing Association, a member for 53 years of the County Education Committee, and a member of council of Bristol University. In 1915 she married Joseph Cooke-Hurle (1859-1930), Chairman of Somerset County Council. She was close to her two young half-brothers, regarding them (as she told Geoffrey Fry) 'more like my own children than anything else' (MS Add.9710/1/8/2). 3. In 1939 Fry presented 29 letters from Brooke c1907-14 to Cambridge University Library (MS Add.7460). 4. Lady Burghclere was the author of biographies of the first Earl of Strafford, the first Duke of Ormond and the second Duke of Buckingham. Letters to her from the Oxford historian H. W. C. Davis are at MS Add.9710/5/1 below. 5. The papers throw no light on whether this was because of his Quaker scruples, or of rejection on medical grounds. His brother Harold became a second lieutenant in the London Regiment, and died of wounds received in action in October 1916 (MS Add.9710/1/9/9-15). 6. Fry performed a final service to his former chief by taking a leading part in organising Bonar Law's funeral at Westminster Abbey on 5 November 1923 (MS Add.9710/1/1/7, 2/1/71). 7. The fact that he was receiving no financial reward helps to explain the generosity of the honours granted to him: CB in 1923, CVO and baronetcy in 1929, and KCB in 1937. It was probably the constancy of his service that most impressed those such as Sir Maurice Hankey who knew him well: 'No reward for loyalty such as yours is too high' (MS Add.9710/1/4/9). 8. MS Add.9710/1/1/23. 9. A limerick concerning the living of Fobbing, Essex, and verses on the revised Prayer Book of 1928, will be found at MS Add.9710/1/12/7-8. 10. MS Add.9710/1/11/5. 'An impressive townish house built in 1740Â Clough Williams Ellis in 1921 and 1925 added two symmetrical wingsÂ ' (N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Wiltshire, 2nd edition 1975, p363). 11. Successively in Hill Street, off Berkeley Square; in Portman Street; and in Old Church Street, Chelsea (Post Office London Directory). A flat in Park Lane had been sold shortly after the purchase of Oare House. 12. MS Add.9710/1/5/36. 13. MS Add.9710/1/4/16. 14. His letters to Windham Baldwin concerning the progress of both biographies are to be found in two collections at Cambridge University Library: MS Add.7938 (presented by the third Earl Baldwin 1973) and the Windham Baldwin papers (presented by the fourth Earl Baldwin 2004). For Windham's long campaign in defence of his father's reputation, see the introduction to the catalogue of the Windham Baldwin papers
Found in 5 Collections and/or Records:
Letters from Baldwin to various people, 1896-1947; letters from Arthur Windham Baldwin, 3rd Earl Baldwin, to Derek Pepys Whiteley, 1958-1968; memorandum of a conversation with Baldwin, 1938, by J.W. Robertson Scott, editor of The countryman; a speech, 'The unfailing genius of Rudyard Kipling', given to the Kipling Society in 1967 by the 3rd Earl Baldwin; newscuttings on Stanley Baldwin.
From Sir Geoffrey Storrs Fry [1st Bt, Lawyer, and later Private Secretary to Arthur Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin], Kensington Square, 30 Dec. 1916
Would like to meet; Frank Yeatman has had a relapse; 'I hope [Sir Thomas] Beecham isn't as pernicious as he looks for we shall then [have] him and Northcliffe in joint dictatorship over whatever arts survive the war.'
These letters concern Fry's donation to the University Library of a group of letters from Rupert Brooke c1907-1914, catalogued as Add.7460
Brooke and Fry met as undergraduates at King's (Fry having come up in 1905, a year before Brooke), and continued their friendship after Fry left Cambridge in 1908. The letters form only a portion of those that Fry received from Brooke, others having been given by him to Edward Marsh while the latter was writing the memoir that introduced the collected edition of Brooke's poems published in 1916.
Personal and family correspondence and papers