Frank Derry (1869-1951)

Frank Derry was a benefactor to Woking and lived here for 40 years, having been born in Islington. In 1901 he lived in ‘The Retreat’, Guildford Road, Woking, and was a book publisher before making his fortune by inventing magnetic corsets which claimed to ward off arthritis and rheumatism trading them through a mail-order company, Ambrose Wilson, which still exists. Woking Autocar Ltd in Chertsey Road, specializing in Ford cars, was another of Frank’s business interests.

In 1929 he had the 14 bedroom house ‘Ashwood’ in Ashwood Road built in the Arts and Crafts style designed by M H Baillie Scott and costing £40,000. The house was commandeered during WWII and Frank had to move to Sussex, never returning to ‘Ashwood’.

He was a kind and gentle man, generous with his time and money. When it was discovered that the Methodist Church in Knaphill was unsafe, the Derry’s offered the gift of a new church which was opened by Frank on 6th November 1935.

Byfleet Methodist Church also benefitted from his generosity as the Derry’s paid for most of the church, which was opened in 1939, having funded the Manse which opened in 1937. A window in the church commemorates Frank and his wife Kate.

Frank was a great supporter of the Wesleyan Church, subsequently Trinity Methodist Church, in Woking as well as being a County Councillor, a member of Woking Education Committee, and Chairman of the Governors of Woking Boys’ Grammar School. He was President of the Woking YMCA and, as such, attended the opening of the new YMCA hut at St John’s in 1940 by Princess Helena Victoria and gave a cheque for £1000 for funds, having also contributed when the Princess came in 1932 to visit the Woking YMCA.