English dating agency

"The fact that my friend had gone to a marriage bureau all those years ago had really stuck in my head," she recalls. "I couldn't help thinking that I could make a success of my own matchmaking service.I thought at least given my experience, I might be able to help other people."And so on a hot July afternoon in 1962, Stella travelled by train to London to register the name of the Kathleen Kent Marriage Bureau with Companies House."I didn't really have the foggiest idea what I was doing," she says now."I just got on with it and decided I would deal with problems as they arose." Such was her determination that her first matchmaking attempts took place in the maternity wing of her hospital, where she had just given birth to her daughter.

20,000 lonely hearts later (including her own) her views on the changing mores of romance make fascinating reading.

"Old men always want a young dolly bird, and the plainest girls still like to think they can get themselves a millionaire," says Stella waspishly.

Today, she still sports the steely, scrutinising gaze that has been her principal professional tool during her 50-year career - a career she fell into by accident to distract herself from an unhappy marriage of her own (the irony of that inconvenient fact does not, of course, escape her).

She matched her very first client, a shy widow in her early 40s who was looking for a new partner to help with the upbringing of her young children.

"I found her someone and she married shortly afterwards," she recalls.

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