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Our history

YMCA West London is part of the world’s oldest and largest youth charity, YMCA.

YMCA has been helping young people in need to improve their lives for almost two centuries.

As a movement, our origins date back to Victorian London, when the Industrial Revolution was wreaking chaos and deprivation on the UK’s towns and cities.

With the capital’s population soaring out of control as workers flooded in, living and working conditions were often cramped and squalid. People were in desperate need of help to avoid the ravages of the disease, damp housing and depraved lifestyles that were all around them.

So it’s not difficult to see why George Williams, a young Christian from the rural West Country, felt moved to do something about it.

A brief timeline of YMCA beginnings

1821: Williams, a farmer’s son from Somerset, arrived in the capital to work in a drapery. He was disturbed to see people suffering in poor conditions and set up a prayer group to address the issue.

goerge_williams_portrait1844: The group had grown and become known as YMCA – the Young Men’s Christian Association, opening its first branch near Tottenham Court Road in Central London. Along with its equivalent for women, YWCA, its purpose was to provide a safe and low-cost place to stay for young people coming to London for work. A year later, branches opened in Leeds and Manchester.

1851: The Great Exhibition – a showcase of modern industry – took place in Hyde Park. Here, YMCA made links with other countries and began to spread around the world, starting with the US and Canada.

See the full history of YMCA.

The YMCA further afield

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What about YMCA West London?

1870: YMCA West London opened in Ealing village, with the aim of bringing about ‘the improvement of the spiritual and mental condition of young men’.

Now: We give a home, with emotional and practical guidance, to more than 450 young people aged 16-35 of any gender or faith. Since 2001 we have grown rapidly, with the launch of eight new supported housing projects and a Supported Lodgings scheme which places young people with host families.

We also run youth clubs, a nursery, children’s activity classes and a community cafe to help fund our work.

And we continue to grow, with major plans for redevelopment and expansion around the region.

YMCA West London – timeline

History of YMCA West London  – a timeline of key events 1870: YMCA West London launched in the Victorian village of Ealing, with the aim of bringing about ‘the improvement of the spiritual and mental condition of young men’. 1902: Temporary new premises opened at 21 Uxbridge Road for bible studies, meeting and reading. 1906: …

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Facts about YMCA

YMCA West London  was first founded as Ealing YMCA in 1870. In 1894, YMCA founder George Williams was knighted by Queen Victoria to mark the 50th anniversary of the organisation’s work. After his death in 1905, George Williams was buried under the floor of St Paul’s Cathedral. A stained glass window in Westminster Abbey, incorporating …

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