WHAT is the secret to a successful marriage?

Actress Judy Cornwell, who has just celebrated 60 years with her husband John Parry, believes it comes down to treating each other as equals.

The Keeping Up Appearances star and former BBC arts correspondent have lived in central Brighton for 50 years, having first met on the Palace Pier in 1960.

John, 84, was working for The Argus as a reporter at the time and was sent to review a play Judy was starring in at the theatre which used to be on the pier.

He said: “Rather like how I felt about the girl on the stage, I wrote a favourable review. Shortly afterwards I went to knock on her dressing room door, and here we are 60 years later.”

The Argus: John Parry and Judy CornwellJohn Parry and Judy Cornwell

It must have been love at first sight as Judy’s character in the play was “killed off in the first scene”.

The 80-year-old said: “I spent most of the play as a dead body.

“When John came knocking on my door my mother was so delighted he was a man in a suit.”

After spending the summer together, Judy decided to break with convention and proposed to John, who at first declined.

Judy said: “He said: ‘Women don’t propose to men’ but I told him it was a leap year - even though you’re supposed to propose on February 29 and this was actually October.

“It was very short notice and I had to get permission from the Bishop of Chichester to get married as I wasn’t yet 21. We married at St Helen’s Church in Hangleton and then I went off to do a pantomime.

“For most women who got married at that time, that was it. I think we were ahead of the times and it has worked.

“I just think we loved each other and we shared everything.”

John said: “Her career was flourishing and I was very keen for Judy to carry on her work.

The Argus: John Parry and Judy Cornwell have celebrated 60 years of marriageJohn Parry and Judy Cornwell have celebrated 60 years of marriage

“Most of our lives we’ve spent flying off in different directions and not being able to spend time together, so now we’re just enjoying being at home in each other’s company.”

The pair, who celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary on Friday, had originally planned to have a party but have postponed celebrations due to the pandemic.

Judy said: “We were so looking forward to having a party, but we ended up eating stuffed partridges in the kitchen. It was still lovely though.”

John added: “We’ve got to 60 years so something is working.

"Hopefully next year we’ll be able to have a big diamond anniversary party.”