Online dating is common nowadays with numerous dating sites competing to help set people up. But engaging an outside party to help find The One is not a new trend. In the 1930’s and ’40’s, marriage bureaus helped introduce people.
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.
Drawing on the bureau’s extensive archives, Penrose Halson – who many years later found herself the proprietor of the bureau – tells their story, and those of their clients.
Many of the women who used the agency did not have paid jobs and relied on an allowance from their father. Their only hope of a life of their own was to get married.
As the prospect of war loomed large, the minds of many people became focused on finding a spouse. Many men wanted to find someone whom they could come home to once they returned from the war. And when war became a reality, it brought new clients to the bureau, including many injured servicemen.
Halson’s book introduces us to a remarkable cross-section of British society in the 1940s: gents with a ‘merry twinkle’, nervous spinsters, isolated farmers seeking ‘a nice quiet affekshunate girl’ and girls looking ‘exactly’ like Greta Garbo and Vivien Leigh, all desperately longing to find ‘The One’.
And thanks to Heather and Mary, they almost always did just that.
A riveting glimpse of life and love during and after the war, Marriages are made in Bond Street is a heart-warming and touching account of a world gone by.
Further details of Marriages are made in Bond Street can be found on the main catalogue, available in ‘Catalogues’ on the Library’s website.