HELVETICA LODGE NO.4894
A Short History
Helvetica Lodge No.4894 was consecrated at Freemasons’ Hall, Great Queen Street, London on 8th March 1927 and the consecrating officers were:
V.W.Bro. Sir Colville Smith C.V.O. PGD, Grand Secretary
V.W.Bro. W.P. Besley M.A. M.V.O. P.G.Chaplain
W.Bro. Sir Kynaston Studd PGD – Representative of Alpina at UGLE
W.Bro. John White Dep.Prov.Grand Master of Kent
W.Bro. Percy Still PGD
W.Bro. Charles Nicholl Dep.GDC
W.Bro. J. Boyd – Acting as Grand Tyler
The founders of the Lodge were restricted to 22 to represent the 22 Cantons Cantons of Switzerland which at that time were:
Apenzell, Basel and Unterwalden have since been divided into half Cantons.
In 1927 there were approximately 58,000 Swiss Nationals living and working in London and although a number were in London Lodges under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of England, there was not a truly Swiss home for them, hence the enthusiasm for a Swiss Lodge in London.
The founders were from a variety of trades and professions such as watchmakers and jewellers, hoteliers and restaurateurs, silk and other textile merchants, publishers and printers, import/export merchants and shipping agents and of course bankers.
The first Master of the Lodge was W.Bro. S.P. Tettamanti PAGP of Knightsbridge Lodge No. 2978 and the first Secretary and driving force who created the Lodge was W.Bro. Jack Schnieder of Manchester Lodge No. 129. At the consecration meeting there were three guests from the Grand Lodge Alpina of Switzerland – Dr.E. Brandenberg the Grand Master of Alpina, Bro. Raschle – grand Secretary of Alpina and Bro. O> Dempler of Winderheim Lodhe Alpina. The list of guests also included seven Grand Officers of UGLE followed by 85 other members thus making a total attendance of 124.
Pagani’s Restaurant in Great Portland Street, London was the first venue of the Lodge as it also had a temple and since then the Lodge has moved several time from the Comedy Restaurant (one of the members was the proprietor) then the Piccadilly Hotel to the Great Eastern Hotel to the Blakemore Hotel, then the Imperial Hotel and now at Mark Masons’ Hall at 86 St.James’s Street, London SW1A !PL.
The Lodge chose to follow and practice the Universal Ritual with various alterations unique to Helvetica, for example at the Installation meeting the address to the Worshipful Master is given in German, to the Wardens in Italian and to the Brethren in French.
The style of our summons has hardly altered over the years and has the same pattern as that prepared for the consecration. At the head is the Swiss flag, the two pillars at each side are surmounted by a chapel and a waterfall. The waterfall is colloquially known as the Tell falls commemorating the legend of the Swiss hero William Tell and the Chapel represents William Tell’s final resting place and the caption at the foot of the front page is “We will be a united folk of Brothers, not separate in either danger or distress”.
Up to the late 1960’s members had to have an association with Switzerland, either as a Swiss National or husband of a Swiss National or in some way connected to Switzerland through work. However due to the fact that the number of active Lodge members had diminished as Swiss Nationals working in London had declined to about 25,000 from the original 58,000, with some reservations non-Swiss members were admitted, the first being in April 1970.
Since the late 1980’s, due to transport being easier and cheaper a large number of Swiss have joined the Lodge and at present the Worshipful Master, Master Elect, Secretary, Director of Ceremonies, Charity Steward, Senior Deacon, Inner Guard and nine further members are all Swiss. The Lodge has also received and granted honorary membership to various Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge Alpina of Switzerland which has cemented the relationship between the Lodge and the Grand Lodge of Switzerland.
Helvetica Lodge joined the Anglo Foreign Lodges Association that declared one aim in view: “to provide an opportunity to the Brethren of the constituent Lodges to meet and know each other better, and while so doing, arrange the proceedings of the evening that the occasion will be as happy and as memorable as those that have preceded it.”
Each member of the Association in turn acts as the Banner Lodge and since its inception in 1910, until Helvetica joined, it had met six time, five informally and the sixth being the first Reunion Meeting. The second Reunion Meeting on the 6th October 1933, which was also the 27th regular meeting of Helvetica, the banner was carried by Helvetica with the Reunion at the Café Royal.