Saunders, Emma 1841 - 1927


Emma Saunders (1841-1927) was a philanthropist, Anglican missionary, and a pioneer member of the Railway Mission. Although she later became the superintendent of the Bristal Railway Mission, her work with railwaymen predated the foundation of the Railway Mission with her running a Sunday Bible Class at Bristol Temple Meads Station from 1878. She was initially responsible for administering to the railwaymen operating the Clifton Extension Railway, Severn Tunnel and loop line at Pyle Hill but later became responsible for the workmen on all of Bristol’s railways.

She was known as ‘The Railwayman’s Friend’ for her work visiting railwaymen and their families in Bristol. Monthly she visited 2000 workers to whom she would take personal tokens and Christian texts. With the support of The Great Western Railway Temperance Society, she built a temperance hall at the Pyle Hill goods yard, Mead Street, in the 1880s. She established the Bristol and West of England Railwaymen’s Institute in 1910 which provided engineering classes, a canteen and religious meetings. This was absorbed into the Bristol branch of the British Rail Staff Association after her death.

Emma Saunders continued working with railwaymen until just after the First World War. After her death a memorial tablet was placed at Bristol Temple Meads Station in 1928 to mark her years of service to the railwaymen of Bristol.