4 December 2014

This year, it is 140 years since the YMCA was first established in Kingston, Surbiton and Wimbledon. On Thursday 27th November over 100 people attended an event in St Peter’s church in Norbiton to celebrate the 140th anniversary of YMCA St Paul’s Group. 

The audience were treated to performances by YMCA Dancers, the YMCA Community Choir and the Benchmark Theatre, as well as poems, videos and public speeches by the young people involved in the charity’s projects.

Richard James, Chief Executive of YMCA St Paul’s Group, said:

“It was great to see so many people at or 140th anniversary celebrations at St Peter’s Church in Norbiton. From people who were there at our 75th Celebrations to those who might see again at our 200th anniversary in sixty years time; it truly was a reflection of the YMCA reaching all sections of the community. I look forward to seeing how the YMCA can bring positive impact in South West London for many years to come”.

From small Church led beginnings in 1874…

The current YMCA Association in Kingston was formed outside the Brick Lane Baptist Church in Kingston in 1874 by a group of church goers who felt it important to go beyond spiritual needs and also provide the practical help of evening classes to the young men in town.

Classes in arithmetic, reading, writing, and shorthand were offered. An Association library was also made available in a room in the Market Place, free to all young men in business from 7-10pm every evening except Sunday.

Read more about the early beginning of the YMCA in Kingston and Surbiton  here.

Read about the YMCA on Eden Street  here.

Wimbledon YMCA was established on 6th October 1875. The founders, Mr G.H. Lee and William Godsell wanted to establish a centre where young men could meet after work to enjoy the “pleasures of wholesome friendship in a Christian atmosphere”.

Read more about YMCA Wimbledon  here.

In 2005, the YMCAs merged to become Kingston and Wimbledon YMCA, and four years later, the Association changed its name to YMCA St Paul’s Group. In 2014, the work of the Association reaches across Richmond, Merton, Kingston, Wandsworth, Hammersmith & Fulham and North East Surrey.

Did you know? Fun facts about YMCA in South West London…

  • Kingstonian Football Club was first established as Kingston & Surbiton YMCA Association Football Club in 1885.
  • Tennis legend Roger Taylor moved into the YMCA in Wimbledon aged 17. He later said “Had it not been for the YMCA I would probably never have made it in the game of tennis”.
  • During World War I, YMCA manned the “Wimbledon Camp” at Wimbledon Common where the servicemen were offered a range of comforts including books and newspapers, a card table, snooker, gramophone music and a varied entertainment programme.
  • George Williams, the founder of the YMCA, was the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson’s great-great-great grandfather.
  • YMCA Wimbledon used to run a fish and chip shop, where they sold a bag of fish at four pence (old coinage) and chips at a penny and two pence a bag.
  • YMCA St Paul’s Group manages the Hampton Open Air Pool in Hampton, known as “South West London’s best kept secret”.
  • An episode of the popular police drama The Bill (1984-2010) was filmed at YMCA Wimbledon, including police abseiling down the sides of the seven storey building.
  • In 2014, YMCA St Paul’s Group launched Y:Cube Housing, an innovative and affordable modular ‘plug and play’ system designed by Sir Richard Roger’s architect practice RSH+P. The first 36 units will be installed in Merton in 2015.
  • On 6th June 2014, YMCAs nationally and internationally celebrated the 170th Anniversary of the YMCA Movement. George Williams founded the oldest youth organization in the world near St Peter’s Churchyard in Central London in 1844.