Happy Birthday to Us!

It’s been 173 years, but we are only just getting started…
6 June 2017

A long time ago (1844) a young apprentice from Somerset, called George Williams came to London in the hope to find a job and live in the great, exciting, bustling city that is London. What he ended up finding, and consequently creating is an internationally known brand that has millions of locations worldwide and even has a song dedicated to it.

Mind, body and spirit

His vision for the global YMCA movement was founded on the mind, body and spirit principles, and we have continued this mission by pioneering many movements to further this original goal. And now these core values can be found interwoven in different and unique ways in every YMCA across the globe. 

We were founded in 1844, during the Industrial Revolution and our answer to society’s needs was offering a positive place for young men coming to London to adapt to city life. A short time after this in 1849, we broke ground by opening our doors to Non-Christians, establishing another strand of our ethos which is inclusivity

Addressing society's needs

And not to toot our own horn, but YMCA Club, our first gym created in 1881, is still to this day Central London’s largest gym and is constantly evolving to represent every aspect of the mind, body and spirit. It was a space created for the local community to retreat from the hectic city of London and help people get healthy, and it is still a friendly, accepting, safe haven for Londoners.

In both World War I and II, the YMCA huts provided soldiers with food, drink and paper so that they can write to their loved ones at home. 

Fast forward a few years to 1983, we created YMCAfit, as there were currently no decent training available for fitness professionals and we wanted our gym to have some of the best trained professionals in London. Through this we delivered the first Exercise to Music course in 1984.


More recently we have been keeping busy by truly looking at the barriers that effect wellness of those living in the UK. These findings sparked Eudaimonia!, a health revolution that pinpointed these obstacles that stop us from being happy and gave REAL idas of how to combat these hurdles.

Our Be Well whitepaper written by our CEO Rosi Prescott and author Charles Leadbeater furthered the Eudaimonia! Movement, and offers a 21st holistic approach to wellbeing and outlines our future plans for YMCA Club, in creating a space that really does help people feel (and be) well in 21st century London. 

A BIG thank you

So our journey has been quite a ride, and today we’re the UK's leading education, health and wellbeing charity – but truly we have only just scratched the surface, and we thank those of you who have continued to support us and help us flourish throughout the years. Here’s to another 173 years!