A couple who fell in love when they were teenagers have finally tied the knot, six decades after their parents called off their engagement.
Len Allbrighton, 79, and Jeanette Steer, 78, had an extraordinarily tortuous path to their eventual wedding, but both are as happy as they have ever been.
The couple first met in 1963 when Len was 19 and Jeanette was 18.
They were serving as trainee nurses at St Mary’s Hospital in Newport on the Isle of Wight, and said they fell in love at first sight.
Within months of their meeting, Len had got down on one knee and asked her to marry him but fate would have other plans.
After Jeanette accepted his proposal, he moved to Australia, planning to buy a plot of land and build a house for them to live in once they were married.
However, the age of consent at the time was 21, and Jeanette was three years too young.
Her mum and dad put a stop to the planned wedding, and Len received a heartbreaking letter calling off the engagement while he was living down under.
Over the next 50 years, Len married a woman in Australia, had three children, divorced, and moved to Stevenage where he worked as a district nurse.
Jeanette, meanwhile, stayed on the Isle of Wight to also become a nurse, then got married to a naval officer and had two kids.
She was retired and still with her husband when Len decided to track down his old flame by travelling to Newport and looking up her address using the electoral roll in the local library.
He said: ‘I was daunted, not knowing what her reaction would be or if I would even see her.
‘I went on the off chance. It was not an easy place to find but I did.
‘I just hoped she was ok – I didn’t expect anything else.’
Len stood by her garden fence looking at the house, when Jeanette – not recognising him 52 years older and sporting a beard – asked who he was.
She said: ‘I nearly died when I realised it was him standing by my garden fence.
‘I was glad he looked me up. I thought of him a lot at the time.’
At the time, she sent her former fiance away and told her husband he was a stranger asking for directions.
But two years later, Jeanette’s husband died from cancer, and she reached back out to Len using an address he’d included on a Christmas card the year before.
In 2018, she agreed to move up to Stevenage to live with him, and last year Len once again got down on one knee and asked her to marry him.
Their wedding took place on February 11, with new matching rings and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to bear witness.