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12 July 2019

We are celebrating 175 years since YMCA was established!

Have you heard of George Williams?

George Williams - YMCA 175 years of supporting young people

George was one of many young men who came to London to find work during the Industrial Revolution.  In 1844 George organised a prayer group in his lodgings near St Paul’s Churchyard. This was the very start of YMCA. People new to the city welcomed the opportunity to connect with others and the group grew rapidly. George soon had to rent bigger spaces and public lectures and classes were arranged.  YMCA developed to look after the mind, body and spirit its members. Support and guidance, physical pursuits and practical help with accommodation and childcare were provided.. 

YMCA today

YMCA around the world - YMCA 175 years of supporting young people

Today, YMCA is a worldwide organisation operating in over 100 countries – each YMCA is separate and serves to the needs of its own local community.  Although, all individual, we are linked with a common cause of supporting young people and helping them to thrive.

YMCA St Paul’s Group

YMCA St Paul’s Group is the largest YMCA in Europe: a group of YMCAs across London and beyond. We formed from a recent merger between several YMCAs in south west London, east London west London and Slough. Our roots go back to 1874 when a group of churchgoers created the Kingston Association, believing that it was important to go beyond spiritual needs to also provide the practical help of evening classes to the young men in town. The following year, YMCA Wimbledon formed with the aim to establish a centre where young men could meet after work to enjoy the “pleasures of wholesome friendship in a Christian atmosphere”.

Our vision is of ‘places where young people thrive and communities flourish.’

We are supported by YMCA England & Wales and continue to be true to the Association’s original aims of supporting young people and building strong communities.


To mark YMCA’s landmark anniversary year, ExCel London is hosting YMCA175, 4-8 August 2019. This event will bring together thousands of young leaders from around the world to celebrate 175 years of YMCA and young people transforming communities, and will look to the future to create positive change and new ideas to shape our world’s tomorrow.

The programme will include thought-provoking lectures and interactive workshops, innovative collaborative sessions and open seminars, inspiring keynote speakers and a broad choice of training and education.

We are supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, having identified the following key priorities for young people: 



▸Economic Empowerment & Employment

▸Civic Engagement


Find out more about the YMCA175 programme

12 July 2019