My parents stopped me from marrying my first love when I was 18-years-old – now I’m 78 and I’m finally his wife
- Len Allbrighton, 79, and Jeanette Steer, 78, married in Stevenage last month
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A couple who first tried to marry in 1963 but were separated when the bride’s parents put a stop to the marriage have finally said their vows as they approach 80 years old after six decades apart.
Len Allbrighton, 79 and Jeanette Steer, 78, were first engaged to be married in the Swinging Sixties after meeting as trainee nurses on the Isle of Wight and had planned to move to Australia to begin a new life together.
But, at just 18 years old, Jeanette needed permission from her parents to marry Len, then 19. At the time, the age of consent to marry in the UK was 21.
When the wedding and the romance were put on ice, Len decided to fulfil his lifelong dream of moving down under, having never been happy in the UK.
But 60 years on, the couple have found their way back to each other and after a long wait, they say married life in Stevenage, Herts, is ‘fantastic’.
Len Allbrighton, 79, and Jeanette Steer, 78, reunited in 2015 after the pair had been separated since 1963 when Jeanette’s parents put a stop to their marriage. When they reconnected, Len eventually popped the question once again and the pair married in Stevenage last month (pictured on their wedding day)
When Jeanette’s parents first put a stop to the wedding, they also would not let her move to Australia, meaning Len, who had already moved there, was left alone.
The heartbroken lover received Jeanette’s heartfelt letter ending their engagement whilst he was in Oz.
In the decades they spent apart, Len and Jeanette lost contact and went on to build family lives without each other.
Len married in Australia and built a house on the plot of land he had originally bought to make a home with Jeanette. Over the years, he became a father-of-three.
Len and Jeanette (pictured in the registry office) married in a ceremony which included their children and grandchildren
Jeanette (pictured in 1963) was a trainee nurse when she met Len, also a trainee nurse, at a hospital in the Isle of Wight
Len (pictured in 1963) always had dreams of leaving the UK to move to Australia and hoped Jeanette would follow him
Meanwhile Jeanette remained on the Isle of Wight, where she and Len had grown up, married a naval officer and had two children of her own, while holding down a successful nursing career.
But when Len’s marriage ended in 2015 he sought out Jeanette to see if she was still alive, and if she remembered him at all.
By now he was 71 and had moved to Stevenage following the divorce, so he made the trip to the Isle of Wight to find Jeanette.
He travelled down to Newport, where he looked up her address in the electoral role in Newport library.
Len recalled: ‘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. I’m very surprised by the outcome of my trip down there and very happy too!’
He stood outside her garden fence, staring up at the house when a woman came out to see who he was.
Jeanette, who was still married to her first husband at the time, didn’t recognise his bearded face, knowing him as a clean-shaven youth at 19, but was astounded when he revealed he was her teenage love.
‘I nearly died when I realised it was him standing by my garden fence,’ she said.
‘I was glad he looked me up – I thought of him a lot at the time.’
Still, she sent Len away, telling her husband he was a stranger looking for directions.
Two years after their surprise reunion, Jeanette’s husband sadly died from cancer.
Following his death, Jeanette and Len were once again reunited, when Jeanette found his address from a Christmas card he had sent her the previous year.
From there, romance blossomed between the pair once more, and Len invited Jeanette to live with him in Stevenage. Last year, he popped the question and this time there were no obstacles standing in her way.
The pair married on February 11, in a small ceremony which included their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – and one of Jeanette’s daughters even gave her away.
‘Married life is fantastic- it couldn’t be better,’ Jeanette said.
‘It’s nice to have someone who treats me with respect. I like doing everything and anything with Len.’
Len said: ‘We fell in love again. We read poems to each other and exchanged rings- I got emotional when reading mine. I was overwhelmed with my love for her.’
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