Bryan Evett Saunders was born in 1893 in Coggeshall.
His father, Harry Bryan Saunders had a furniture and hardware business on Market Hill. He was apprenticed to Samuel Marshall, a master carver of Bridge Street, Coggeshall at the age of 14 in 1907. He completed his apprenticeship in 1914, taking over the business with glowing references from both Mr Marshall and the vicar, Rev.M.B. Eardly Wilmott.
In 1914 Bryan tried to enlist in the army, but was turned down due to varicose veins, thought to have been developed while working on a mechanical lathe during his apprenticeship, which would have prohibited him from the long marches required of a soldier.
Later, in Bryan’s own workshop, no mechanical aids were allowed and the constant noise of sawing was a fond memory of his two daughters.
Following the First World War he was trading in harsh economic times and accepted any work that would come his way. However, as his reputation grew, he took on an increasing number of private commissions, and a large amount of ecclesiastical work both locally and further afield.
Expanding the business
In 1919, Bryan was married to Victoria Maude Norfolk and took the lease of a house on Market Hill, now 2 Stoneham Street.
Initially Bryan’s workshop was upstairs, while Mrs Saunders had a china shop downstairs, but as more work came in, the china shop closed and Bryan moved his workshop downstairs to more room and better light.
Bryan took on an assistant in 1929 named Ernest Prentice who had also served his apprenticeship with Mr Marshall, and the two worked together until after the Second World War.
Bryan’s work continued to build up and there are examples of his work throughout his native Essex and further afield.
His work was celebrated with a good deal of publicity during his lifetime; as early as the 30s he garnered an article on his work in the 'monthly pictorial', but it was in the 50s and 60s that his publicity was at its height, winning second prize for his table at the ‘Essex County Fayre and Social Services Exhibition’.
He was also featured in several glossy magazines including 'The Sphere', 1953, 'The Field', 1964, 'Essex Life', 1966, and 'The Essex Countryside', 1953, in which the author, in tribute to Bryan’s craft wrote: