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Marriages Are Made in Bond Street: True Stories from a 1940s Marriage Bureau, by Penrose Halson

16th November 2017
Venue: St Peter's Church, Oundle PE8 4AL
Time: 7.45 - 8.45pm

In the spring of 1939, with the Second World War looming, two determined twenty-four-year-olds, Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver, decided to open a marriage bureau. They found a tiny office on London's Bond Street and set about the delicate business of match-making. From shop girls to debutantes; widowers to war veterans, clients came in search of security, social acceptance, or simply love. Thanks to the meticulous organization and astute intuition of the Bureau’s matchmakers, most found what they were looking for.

The social history described in this wonderful book is fascinating, especially given the timing of the bureau’s start, just before the outbreak of war. Changing morals and a sense of carpe diem during the conflict added urgency and forthrightness to the proceedings. In the questionnaires quoted as an appendix, one woman asked for “a man of character. I do not mind if he is a war wreck”. Another said: “My husband was killed serving as a captain in the Royal Artillery in North Africa. Would like another.” The men were usually more demanding and unrealistic: one wanted a “beautiful girl with a big breast and lovely legs. Not had any men friends, not been married before.” Others fancied the “looks and voice of a Shakespearean heroine”, or “Marilyn Monroe with homely ways”. Results could be scarily quick – one couple met on Wednesday and were married on Friday – and over the course of the war the enterprise clocked up more than 2,000 weddings.

Drawing on the bureau's extensive archives, Penrose Halson tells Heather and Mary’s story, and those of their clients. All were desperately longing to find 'The One', and thanks to the Marriage Bureau, they almost always did just that.

Before she married, Penrose Halson was an editor and writer, producing hundreds of educational language magazines and courses for children learning English as a Foreign Language. When she met Bill in her forties, he spotted her talent for connecting people who she felt sure would get on well, and talked her into jointly buying the Katharine Allen Marriage & Advice Bureau. This also led to their marriage and in 1992 they took over the oldest Marriage Bureau, established by Heather and Mary in 1939.

'A book full of charm and hilarity.' Ysenda Maxtone in Country Life

'...a gold mine here of anecdote and personality from the foundresses' journals, vividly enlightening about that decade.'  Libby Purves in the Times Literary Supplement

‘The makers of Call the Midwife need look no further for their next television project.’  Daily Mail

Tickets £8 (£6), £1 off early bird tickets bought before 9th November, available from the Oundle Box Office, 4 New Street, Oundle.

Open hours: 10.00am – 4.00pm Mon to Fri: Tel 01832 274734, online at www.oundlefestival.org.uk

Any queries call Helen on 07743988181 or email oundlelitfestival@hotmail.co.uk