History & Heritage

YMCA History


YMCA has over 58 million members in 119 countries worldwide. Since it was established, YMCA has adapted to the changing needs of young people.
Today it works with young men and women regardless of race, religion or culture. In every corner of the world, the YMCA is helping young people to build a future.


YMCA Bath Group and YMCA Mendip and South Somerset merged. This is an exciting time for both YMCAs as we come together with a shared vision to better serve the communities in Mendip, South Somerset, Bath, Bristol, Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire.


YMCA Bath Group and YMCA Mendip working towards a merger : Both YMCA’s have been collaborating since late 2017 when both trustee groups agreed to work towards merger. Due diligence has been completed and from April 2018 both YMCAs have been led by a single Chief Executive and from April 2019 by a single senior leadership team with close working through the organisation.


The Bristol Wing opened its doors for business in January 2018.


YMCA Mendip celebrates its 125th Anniversary, with a celebration being held in Wells Cathedral.


A successful tender to provide housing and homeless support within South Somerset saw YMCA Mendip welcome 22 new staff and set up 6 additional supported housing properties. The success continued when 3 years of funding was secured for youth work programs.


Started to offer the Nightstop project in Bath giving emergency accommodation to 16-25 yr olds
Started offering Platform for Life accommodation across B&NES.


YMCA Mendip took management of the purpose-built Street Foyer, with 9 supported bedsits, 1 emergency bed space and a further 8 self-contained flats for young adults 16-25yrs.


YMCAs in Wales affiliate to the National Council to form YMCA England and Wales.


YMCA Bristol merged with YMCA Bath
The Station Kitchen opened its doors for business serving great food and drinks and training young people.


The Community Building at Frome Foyer opened to provide a Routes One Stop Shop, which was originally developed in partnership with Connexions. This project enables direct access to information, advice and learning opportunities for young people.


YMCA Bath started offering Holiday Clubs.


YMCA Mendip opened its Frome Foyer as the Managing Agent, for YMCA England who were the Registered Social Landlord. The Foyer houses 12 self-contained flats, 2 emergency bed spaces (with shared facilities) for young people aged 16–25yrs. The Foyer provides a stepping-stone to independent living with comprehensive support to assist young people with basic life skills and help to access training, education, employment and other learning opportunities.


The City of Wells Housing Association handed management of Spencer House in Chamberlain Street, Wells back to Knightstone Housing Association (the Registered Social Landlord) and requested that YMCA Mendip assume the managerial responsibility. Spencer House has 8 bedsits and provides supported housing for adults with complex needs, with a home and support to develop life skills, access specialist support and prepare to move on to independent living.


The current YMCA Mendip headquarters, The Old Glasshouse, opened in January of this year.


YMCA Bath opened our first nursery in Bath.


Wells YMCA became re-established, but changed its name in to  “YMCA Mendip” to reflect its growing area of work after adopting the same boundaries as Mendip District Council.


YMCA Bath Gym opened.


Y Care International, the overseas development agency of YMCA in the UK and Ireland is established. Today it supports projects for vulnerable young people in over 20 countries worldwide.


YMCA Bath – the hostel extension opened offering a variety of single, twin, triple and quad rooms.


During the 1970s, YMCA increases its emphasis on young people most in need, focusing on homelessness and unemployment.


YMCA George Williams College is established in London, providing training programmes for professional youth workers. Today, the college is one of the leading trainers in informal education.


The British Government publishes the Albermarle report about the need for better leisure facilities for teenagers. This results in many YMCAs beginning youth clubs to promote young people’s personal development.


YMCA sets up the ‘British Boys for British Farms’ initiative which benefits 25,000 young people.


In 1917 a Centre was opened at the War Hospital, Combe Park, Bath, by the National Council of YMCA’s and taken over by YMCA Bath in 1920. During the whole period a total of 39,000 men passed through its wards benefitting from YMCA support.


A YMCA employment department is set up in England to deal with unemployment. It finds jobs for 38,000 ex-servicemen.

1914-1918 (WWI)

During the First World War, YMCA supports the troops. YMCA huts provide soldiers with food and a place to rest on the frontline or at home in military camps and railway stations.
YMCA embarks on a massive education programme for soldiers, which eventually becomes the Army Education Corps.

The red poppy is introduced by an American YMCA worker and goes on to become a worldwide symbol of remembrance for those lost in the World Wars.


The World Alliance of YMCAs celebrates its 50th anniversary. There are now YMCAs in 45 countries with a global membership of over 707,000.
George Williams dies at the age of 83 and is laid to rest in the crypt at St Paul’s Cathedral.


On the 50th anniversary of YMCA, George Williams receives a knighthood from Queen Victoria.


YMCA Mendip was founded under the name of Wells YMCA by a group of men who met in a Coffee House in the Market Place in Wells where rooms were rented to run Prayer Groups, Bible study and talks.


The American YMCA invents basketball and goes on to invent volleyball in 1895.


In Bath, on 18th October, we moved into our current building and it was formally opened by George Williams.


YMCA Bath appointed their first General Secretary named Mr J A Stooke.


The British YMCA incorporates personal fitness into its programmes and opens its first gym


The American YMCA opens its first gym.


YMCA Bath moved to No 5 Quiet Street.
The first YMCA holiday centre is established on the Isle of Wight. Their huge popularity led to another 25 centres being opened. Billy Butlin later adapted the idea by creating purpose-built holiday camps.


YMCA Bath moved to No 4 Bridge Street staying there only a year.


YMCA Bath moved again, this time to 18 New Bond Street.


YMCA Bath moved to No1 Milsom Street to more suitable premises.


The first YMCA opened its doors in Bath on January 3rd at No 19 Green Street.


Following links made at The Great Exhibition in London, YMCA spreads across the globe and YMCAs are established in the USA and Canada. Seven years after it was established, a YMCA is formed in Boston, USA.


The idea of creating a global organisation is pioneered by Henry Dunant, who would later go on to found the International Committee of the Red Cross. He convinced YMCA Paris to organise the first YMCA ‘World Conference’.
The conference produces the ‘Paris Basis’ – an agreement about the aims of YMCA. It also sees the launch of an international committee and headquarters, which would become the World Alliance of YMCAs.


YMCA spreads outside London and branches are set up in Manchester and Leeds.


YMCA was founded by Sir George Williams – a worker in the drapery trade in London. Concerned about the welfare of his fellow workers, he started a prayer and bible study group. This soon grew and attracted men from across London