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The History of YMCA Mendip
YMCA Mendip was founded under the name of Wells YMCA in October 1892, by a group of men who met in a Coffee House in the Market Place in Wells. Rooms
were rented there to run Prayer Groups, Bible study and talks.

Over the years the Association rented various rooms in the City and on 19th October 1910 the Foundation stone was laid for the first property to be owned. This was on the corner of the High Street and Union Street and in the area of the Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society.

In 1943 the Association moved to Chamberlain Street and owned what is now St Cuthbert’s Lodge. This building was sold in the 1950s due to lack of funds needed to repair the roof. The Association then operated from a single storey concrete building in Chamberlain Street. After many years of little activity, bar the building being rented to the Probation Service, the building was sold in March 1989 to Mendip District Council and is now a public car park.

In November 1989 a research and development worker was appointed with the brief to research the needs of the local community and make recommendations on future developments.

Wells YMCA became re-established, but changed its name in 1991 to “YMCA Mendip”, to reflect the fact that its work was starting to develop further afield. It adopted the same boundaries as Mendip District Council, and they remain the same today.

Project work started in 1991 from a small building in the Blue School grounds and this was the Headquarters base until 1995 when the present Old Glasshouse building was opened in January 1996.

Throughout the 90’s, staffing levels have gradually increased as new project work started and this has reflected the expanding nature of YMCA Mendip and its work.

YMCA Mendip’s operations are managed from a purpose-built headquarters, at The Old Glasshouse in South Street, Wells.

The Old Glasshouse also houses several projects, including an emergency accommodation scheme a Move On project, a Rent & Deposit Guarantee Scheme, resettlement support services, Schools Work and Family Mediation.

In December 2001, City of Wells Housing Association handed management of Spencer House (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 for young people aged 16 – 25. Project staff help young people prepare for living independently and accessing move on accommodation

In April 2002 YMCA Mendip opened its Frome Foyer. YMCA England are the Registered Social Landlord and YMCA Mendip the Managing Agent. The Foyer provides 13 self-contained flats for young people aged 16 – 25. 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 Community Building at the Foyer opened in 2003 and provides a Routes One Stop Shop, which was developed in partnership with Connexions. This project enables direct access to information, advice and learning opportunities for young people.

Through it’s varied and innovative projects, YMCA Mendip continues to serve the local community supported by its Christian ethos and strong network of volunteers.


1821        George Williams is born

 1844        Young Men’s Christian Organisation is formed inSt Paul’s Cathedral Courtyard,London. (now known as Central YMCA)

 1845        The YMCA spreads outside London and branches are set up inManchester and Leeds

 1851        Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace spreads message of YMCA internationally. YMCA’S established in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Australia, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany,the Netherlands and France.

1855        First YMCA Conference. The Conference took place in Parisin August, bringing together 99 young delegates from 9 countries. The conference adopted the Paris Basis affirming the YMCA’s mission and purpose, and created the Central International Committee. The Paris Basis , became the common mission for all present and future national YMCA’s. It’s motto was taken from the Bible “that they all may be one” (John 17:21). They also discussed the possibility of joining together in a federation to enhance co-operation amongst individual YMCA societies.

 1865        Fourth World Conference of YMCA’s, in Germany, affirmed the importance of developing the whole individual in body, mind and spirit.

1878        First permanent headquarters and formal structure for the International Committee was created in Geneva,  Switzerland, which would eventually become known as the World Alliance of YMCA’s.

 1881        First African YMCA is established inLiberia.

1882        George Williams is the first President of National Council of YMCA’s inEngland.

 1894        Fifty years on from its foundation, and such was the stature of the YMCA,  George Williams received a knighthood  from Queen Victoria and the freedom of the city of London. There were YMCA’s in 45 countries with a global membership of over 707,000.

 1905        Sir George Williams dies. A state funeral takes place in St. Pauls Cathedral and over 2,500 people attend.

 1914        During World War I, the British YMCA extended its work across the channel to support the troops.

 1932        Two initiatives to tackle rising unemployment: British Boys for British Farms, which placed unemployed young men as agricultural workers on farms; and an Employment Department which found jobs for 38,000 ex-servicemen.

 1940        The YMCA continued its war work and mobile canteens were introduced to bring refreshments to the troops.

1959        A government report on young people, led to many YMCA’s beginning youth clubs to help young people with their personal development through recreation, leisure and informal education.

1970       YMCA George Williams College was established to provide professional training for youth workers.

1973        Sixth World Council in Kampala, Uganda, became the first World Council in Africa. It reaffirmed the Paris Basis and adopted a declaration of principles, known as the Kampala Principles,
which include the principles of justice, creativity and honesty.

 1977        African Alliance of YMCA’s was founded as the umbrella body for all national movements on the continent.

1980        YMCA Training for Life was launched, which would result in the creation of YMCA Training.

1994        150th Anniversary of the YMCA is celebrated at the World Council conference held in Coventry, England.

 1998        14th World Council of YMCA’s in Germany adopted “Challenge 21”, giving even more focus to the global challenges, like gender equality, sustainable development, war and peace, fair distribution and the challenges of globalisation, racism, and HIV/AIDS.

 2005        150th Anniversary of the World Alliance of YMCA’s is celebrated inMumbai,India.

2013        The YMCA reaches 58 million members in 119 countries worldwide.


Did you know?

  • goerge_williams_portrait_originalIn 1894 George Williams was knighted by Queen Victoria to mark the 50th aniversary of the YMCA work!
  • George Williams was buried in 1905 under the floor of St Paul’s Cathedral, amongst the nations heroes.
  • There is a stained glass window in Westminister Abbey, complete with red triangle as a dedication to YMCA’s work, to George Williams and the Y’s work during the first world war.
  • The three sides of the inverted triangle (in the logo) stand for body, mind and spirit!
  • The YMCA is also the largest provider of safe, secure and affordable housing and also foyer places for young people.
  • A YMCA worker created the Poppy emblem used for Remembrance Day.
  • Henri Dunant the founder of the Red Cross was also one of the founders of the World Alliance of Young Men’s Christian Associations (YMCA).
  • In 1864 the YMCA became the first non-sectarian organisation to place chapels in its facilities.

Shaping  sports:

  • The YMCA is the largest single provider of sport, exercise and fitness activities in the country.
  • Volleyball was invented by an instructor at the Y in 1895.
  • Basketball was also invented by someone working in the Y in 1891 and the first professional team also came from a YMCA.
  • Racquetball was invented in 1950 by a YMCA member.