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They hit it off immediately, moved in together, married, and had a baby of their own, which made nine.They live in a raucous household just a few miles away."Another lady came to see Stella after escaping her violent former husband. I get a Christmas card from them every year, and postcards from their travels," Stella recalls.Fifty years ago, this woman set up Britain's first modern dating agency and created a giant industry.

"I chose to use my middle name, Kathleen, and Kent where I was born."The business started slowly.

"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.

In the process, her work has become a fascinating barometer of social change: when Stella first started her agency in the early Sixties, newspapers refused to carry her adverts for fear of causing a scandal.

But some things remain comfortingly constant, among them people's expectations - which are, she says, on the whole, generally unrealistic.

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  1. Fifty years ago, this woman set up Britain's first modern dating agency and created a giant industry. 20,000 lonely hearts later including her own her.

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