Our history

The Central YMCA story began in the early 19th century with a young Somerset apprentice called George Williams (1821 – 1905).

Like many others then – and today – George came to London in the hope of finding work.

London was the largest city in the world at that time. A beating heart at the centre of the Industrial Revolution. A dirty, busy place bursting with opportunities – but also danger.

When he arrived, George was shocked by what he saw. Taverns and gambling dens filled the city’s streets – but where were the opportunities for young arrivals like him to socialise in safety?

So George and a group of fellow drapers came together with a plan. Their goal was to create a place where young men could gather and adapt to city life. Somewhere healthy and happy. Somewhere where they could do something more fulfilling.

That space was the YMCA Club.

Founded in 1844 the idea spread quickly. Today the YMCA has grown to become a worldwide organisation with 45 million members – each YMCA adapting to the needs of its own local community.

George’s vision to get people happy, healthy and more fulfilled still informs our work today at Central YMCA.

More about Central YMCA

People

Meet the people that makes our vision a reality