Like the one from the widow with three children who came to see her despairing that she would find love again.

"She had watched her husband being swept out to sea and drowned, and had been devastated by it," Stella recalls. "I put her together with a local widower who had five children of his own and feared no woman would want to take him on.

"I thought my own name was a little harsh," she says.

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

"I was fortunate that I had encountered them during my work as a journalist. Stella relied on word of mouth to get her business off the ground and by the end of 1962 she had amassed her first clients, who paid 15 guineas each (£15.75) for a year's membership.

Each came for a personal interview, with Stella carefully jotting down their age, hobbies and preferences into a notebook.

When a young Stella Groschel heard of her friend's plans to join a marriage bureau in her search for a husband, she was shocked to the core. I thought it was rather on the dangerous side and something that only really desperate, peculiar people would consider." Since then, however, Stella has learned to see matters from the other side.

It was the Forties and, quite simply, respectable girls just didn't do that sort of thing. Now aged 83, she can lay claim to the title of the country's oldest and most long-standing matchmaker, still dispatching affairs of the heart at the country offices of her own dating agency.

Unable to have children of her own, she believed herself to be no catch at all. "She had such low self-esteem." Stella matched her to a local man who was seen as something of a confirmed bachelor when he joined the bureau. The couple were so enamoured of her matchmaking abilities that just a few years ago, they sent their nephew to see her.

"I introduced him to someone and now they're very happily married, too." Most people, she says, have a firm idea of what they want, and Stella endeavours to deliver.

In almost half a century of romantic busybodying, nearly 20,000 people have passed through her books - from Bluebell girls and businessmen to beauty queens and barristers.

There have been hundreds of weddings and, today, in a world of speeddating and internet romance, she still has around 400 clients of all ages hoping Stella's personal touch can help find them their Mr or Miss Right.

Born in Farnborough, Kent, in 1924, Stella Flanders, as she was then, initially trained as a nurse.