A Look Back in Time to 1703

Tuesday, March 19th, 2024

A Recap of the SBS Showcase at the London Metropolitan Archives
with an Eye on Building the Future.

On January 13th, the SBS Board Members, Patron, Advisors, and guests gathered at the London Metropolitan Archives for a captivating exploration of the Swiss Benevolent Society, formerly known as the Société de Secours Mutuels des Suisses à Londres’ (SBS), deep history. It wasn’t just a trip down memory lane; it was a vibrant exchange of ideas highlighting how the SBS’s legacy paves the way for a strong future.

SBS Patron, Gracious Guests and Expert Guidance

We were honoured to have the Patron of our charity, Swiss Ambassador Markus Leitner, and his wife Doris Leitner, join us for the event. The intimate gathering also welcomed our current and former board members, along with distinguished guests like newly appointed advisor to the board Emmanuel Robert of Cambridge University, former Welfare Officer Margrit Lyster, and esteemed SBS member Rose-Marie Breitenstein.

Our illustrious guide, Ms. Sally Bevan, Senior Archivist for SBS, led us through a treasure trove of our SBS Charity’s documents and artifacts housed within the LMA. As a public research center, the LMA is home to an extraordinary range of documents, images, maps, films, and books about London, providing access to over 100km of the city’s history. They also run a wide range of talks, exhibitions, and other events, making them a valuable resource for anyone interested in exploring London’s rich past.

A Journey Through the SBS Legacy

Ms. Bevan’s presentation offered a fascinating glimpse into the cultural heart of the Swiss community through the “Recueil de Chants Suisses” songbook. We marvelled at the ornate engraving adorning the Statutes and regulations of the SBS, and delved into the SBS minutes, meticulously signed from 1870 to 1959, offering a first-hand account of the community’s growth and evolution. Fundraising leaflets and anniversary booklets served as powerful reminders of the SBS’s unwavering dedication to supporting fellow Swiss citizens.

Beyond the SBS Archives: Uncovering Shared Histories

The showcase wasn’t limited to the SBS’s archives. The day unfolded like a tapestry woven with intriguing connections. The Legge family’s travel diaries offered a glimpse into 19th-century Swiss exploration, while Claude Passavant’s pattern book, originating from Basel, Switzerland, revealed a fascinating tale of trade between Switzerland and London. These additional pieces deepened our understanding of the broader historical context surrounding the SBS.

Building Bridges Through Shared Memories

But the true connection and shape of the SBS future, unfolded beyond the historical artifacts during the light lunch, fuelled with lively conversations, fostering a sense of camaraderie and a shared appreciation for the SBS’s legacy. Attendees left feeling a renewed connection to their Swiss heritage and a deeper understanding of the impact the SBS has had on the London Swiss community.

Looking Forward with the Past as Our Guide

The SBS Showcase wasn’t just a celebration of the past; it was a call to action for the future. By delving into the archives, we gained valuable insights into the principles that have shaped the SBS for generations. These ethics – community, support, and resilience – form the bedrock upon which the SBS can continue to build a strong and vibrant future for the Swiss community in London.

A Commitment to the Future – The SBS remains committed to continuing its charitable work in the interest of Swiss Citizens living in the UK.

We are grateful to the LMA for providing a platform to explore our history and for serving as a trusted partner and archive for our documents and the work we do for our peers.