25% of relationships and one in six marriages in the UK now start on a dating site or app and around the world 91 million people are signed up to a dating service. 

It’s easy to see the modern search for ‘The One’ as drastically different from courting as our parents and grandparents experienced it, but has what men and women are searching for really changed that much?
We took a look at the bizarre, heart-breaking and funny requirements of the male and female clients who visited Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver’s Bond Street marriage bureau, opened in 1939, to find out. 

Requirements of women seeking men, 1939-1949
‘A real pal and friend, who is willing to share the good and evil of life with equal cheerfulness.’
‘Not too serious as I am shallow emotionally.’
‘Someone born in February or May.’
‘Must be a gent, never let you down’
‘Someone interested in doing good in the world. Connected with church, schools, children etc.’
‘Only tender-hearted.’
‘Man of character. I do not mind if he is a war wreck.’
‘Broad-minded. Should drink, smoke and be capable of swearing.’
‘Fresh and good to look at.’
‘Not too portly, not helpless, not a recluse.’
‘Someone who has known loneliness.’
‘Physical attraction in some small degree.’
‘Educated. Good looking. Self-assured. Mechanically minded. Handy round the house. Must have wavy hair.’
‘Not bald. Must have savoir faire, not mind girl who smokes, likes a drink and wants a motorcycle.’
‘I divorced my husband who was a teacher. Not another teacher.’
‘Not a marriage in the ordinary sense, but purely for social reasons & to ward off well-meaning matchmakers.’


Requirements for men seeking women, 1939-1949
‘Looks and voice of a Shakespearean heroine.’
‘Someone who has helped old age pensioners or the sick.’
‘Must not chew gum.’
‘Prefer a widow without relations.’
‘Sufficiently educated to make a fair success of a Times crossword puzzle.’
‘Bright, good sport, will take the bad with the good. Above all, faithful.’
‘Someone who likes living and is human.’
‘Keen on golf would be a great asset.’
‘Someone with furniture would be an advantage.’
‘Fond of home life – Army life has made me appreciate such.’
‘A nice quiet girl who likes music and doesn’t dance a lot as I can’t dance.’
‘Widow of pharmacist particularly suitable.’
‘Able to play a portable instrument (string or woodwind) well.’
‘Must be interested in sex.’
‘Someone I can fall in love with. I am very lonely.’
‘Not a film actress.’
‘NO bridge players.’
‘Nobody called Florence.’

Marriages Are Made in Bond Street
True Stories from a 1940s Marriage Bureau
Penrose Halson

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. A riveting glimpse of life and love during and after the war.

Start reading now