How Brief Encounter film put couple on track to new love

Joan and Chris
Joan and Chris

It’s one of Lancashire most romantic spots, and the famous "Brief Encounter" station has now sparked another love story, one which led to a whirlwind romance and a late-in-life marriage as FIONA FINCH discovere

It was only a brief encounter but it was the start of a whirlwind romance for Chris Foote-Wood and Joan Rooke.

Chris and Joan recreate a scene from "Brief Encounter"

Chris and Joan recreate a scene from "Brief Encounter"

The widower and widow had both previously tried internet dating without success.

But their meeting in the Brief Encounter Refreshment Room at Carnforth railway station changed their lives.

Chris, the 77-year-old brother of the late entertainer Victoria Wood, explained: “We hit it off straight away and very quickly decided we should get married as soon as possible.”

Carnforth station memorably featured in David Lean’s much loved 1945 film Brief Encounter which starred Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard.

Carnforth Station and Heritage Centre

Carnforth Station and Heritage Centre

While the fictional couple’s romance could not progress, for Chris and Joan it was clear their’s was to be much, much more than a passing romance.

Chris, whose home is in Darlington, said: “When I formally proposed to her in Darlington Joan was a bit taken aback but said yes almost straight away.

“It was a real whirlwind romance. We had both been on the internet dating and we had both hoped to find someone without any great expectation. We had both had several dates but nothing had clicked.

“When Joan and I met it was almost instantaneous – certainly from my point of view. The moment I saw her it was right that’s it... Our first date was on August 30... Very quickly it became apparent that we were meant for each other and we have acted accordingly. The wedding will take place on Saturday, November 17 at the Villa Levens in Kendal.”

Chris Foote-Wood with photo of his sister Victoria Wood and his collection of books by Charles Dickens

Chris Foote-Wood with photo of his sister Victoria Wood and his collection of books by Charles Dickens

For Joan, a former model and beauty queen who describes herself as a ‘Westmorland girl’ that first date was close to home.

And while true love now reigns the couple have decided to be practical about their life together and keep their own homes.

Chris explained: “It won’t be a conventional marriage, definitely not. Joan will keep her home in Silverdale and I will stay there part of the week, with Joan alternately staying with me at my home in Darlington. For us, this is the best of both worlds.”

He continued: “I think in principle in these kind of circumstances with older people remarrying it’s very important that woman particularly should keep her own home, because you never know what will happen and that’s security for her. I very much believe you should keep your own home and that suits us both. We will commute between the two.”

By another coincidence Chris is very well acquainted with the area where his fiancée Joan lives.

He explained: “By an amazing coincidence, Joan’s house in Silverdale is only two doors away from where my late sister, the comedienne Victoria Wood, used to live with her then husband Geoffrey Durham and their two children and where my late wife Frances and I used to visit, The area is very familiar to me.

“It’s a beautiful place.”

It is also, he added, familiar from holidays: “I was brought up in Lancashire in Bury. I’m very familiar with Morecambe from my childhood days – we’d go on holiday there. ”

He also recalled another Lancashire link – that Chorley was the setting for a performance of his one man show The Genius of Charles Dickens in 2013. He has taken the show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in recent years.

The former civil engineer, journalist and ex-Wear Valley Council leader is now an author and actor.

He writes biographies and decided he must write one about his sister. “Victoria Wood Comedy Genius” was the result. He said: “I’m a biographer and I think it was appropriate I should write a book about her as I had a perspective on her life that nobody else had. It’s a unique perspective on how she grew up and eventually became a superstar.”

In comparison to his famous sister he said: “My talent is very modest. I’ve no illusions of being anywhere near as good.”

While in recent times Chris has opted to become a civil celebrant, seeking variety in his work, he says his November marriage will be a quiet event with family and friends. He said: “It will be a civil marriage with the registrar.”

The couple had originally planned to honeymoon in Budapest. But that will be delayed for better weather and meanwhile they will honeymoon in Edinburgh.

A second reception will be held at a future date in Darlington.

Chris’s wife Frances died in 2013, and Joan’s husband Brian died 18 months ago.

Chris said: “This will be the third marriage for both of us. We both lost dearly beloved life partners to cancer. We have each lost beloved life partners in recent years and will always honour their memory, but we feel the time is right for us to enjoy our remaining years as man and wife.”

The choice of the Brief Encounter Refreshment Room for their first date was especially significant for Chris as he is a big fan of steam railways.

As for the 'Brief Encounter' film Chris said: “I must have seen it half a dozen times or so. I could say it’s my favourite film.”

Fans can still see the film, played continuously in the Carnforth Station Heritage Centre where there is a 'Brief Encounter' exhibition.

The station has been voted the eighth most romantic film location in the country, which will be no surprise to Chris and Joan. They have not yet had time to watch 'Brief Encounter' together... but certainly plan to do so.