Post Memories: Dagenham is diamond for this happy couple

25 Chiltern Gardens, Hornchurch, RM12 4SQQ - 60th Wedding Anniversary of Norma and Terry Matthews

25 Chiltern Gardens, Hornchurch, RM12 4SQQ - 60th Wedding Anniversary of Norma and Terry Matthews - Credit: Archant

Happy couple Terry and Norma Matthews tell Zoah Hedges-Stocks about their lives together as they celebrate 60 years of married bliss

Norma and Terry have six children, 17 grandchild, and 14 great-grandchildren

Norma and Terry have six children, 17 grandchild, and 14 great-grandchildren - Credit: Archant

In 1954, the same year that meat finally came off ration and Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile, a special couple were tying the knot.

Sixty years later, Dagenham great-grandparents Terry and Norma Matthews celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary last Thursday.

Terry, who turned 80 on Monday, met his future wife at his sister’s birthday party when he was 17 and Norma was 16 – but he didn’t make the first move.

“She said to my sister, ‘what’s your brother’s name?’ and my sister said to me, ‘she wants you to take her out,’” he recalled. “She came after me!”

Norma and Terry have six children, 17 grandchild, and 14 great-grandchildren

Norma and Terry have six children, 17 grandchild, and 14 great-grandchildren - Credit: Archant

Their courtship survived Terry being sent away for national service when he turned 18. He was in the army for three years but never saw any action because a superior officer was a big sports fan.

“I was good at football and cricket so I stayed at Lingfield barracks in East Grinstead so I could be on the teams,” Terry said.

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“The only fighting I did was to get in the Navy Army and Air Force Institutues.”

He used to hitchhike home every weekend to see Norma but her father put a further strain on their courtship, ordering that she had to be home by 9.30pm every night.

Norma and Terry have six children, 17 grandchild, and 14 great-grandchildren

Norma and Terry have six children, 17 grandchild, and 14 great-grandchildren - Credit: Archant

Despite his protectiveness, Norma has lovely memories of going to watch the football with him at West Ham and she was saddened that he couldn’t give her away when, after four years with Terry, they decided to get married at Stratford registry office.

“Both our dads died quite young,” Norma, née Kennedy, remembered. “Terry’s father was killed on a boat in the war so it was just our mums at the wedding.”

Despite the sadness, it was still a happy day. Terry said he was “over the moon” to tie the knot.

“It was lovely, really nice,” Norma added. “We had a party at my nan’s house in Canning Town.”

The couple began their married life in Star Lane before moving to Barking and Dagenham where they raised their six children – Susan, Neil, Terry, Janice, Angela and Diane.

Now they have 17 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren and, despite the family’s size, they are very close – literally. The whole family live within a five-mile radius.

Terry and Norma moved to their current bungalow in Adelaide Gardens 20 years ago and enjoy spending time in their conservatory watching television on the set that their children bought them for their ruby wedding anniversary.

The happy couple celebrated their diamond anniversary with a party at daughter Angela Joy’s house on Saturday – and returned on Monday for a belated gathering to mark Terry’s 80th birthday.

So what’s the secret to their long and happy marriage?

Norma says the key is agreeing with one another and being friends, while Terry has more practical advice.

“You have got to do as you’re told,” he joked. “When you’re hoovering always move things, and when you’re dusting always pick things up.”

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