The first YMCA was created in 1844 by a young draper’s apprentice from Somerset called George Williams (1821 – 1905). When he was 22 years old, George travelled to London hoping to find work – at that time London was the largest city in the world and the beating heart of the Industrial Revolution. However, when he arrived, George was shocked by what he saw. Taverns and gambling dens filled the city’s streets and there were few opportunities for young arrivals like him to socialise in safety.
George and a group of ten fellow drapers decided to create the first Young Men’s Christian Association where young Christian men from all social classes could meet for prayer and bible study:
“Our object is the improvement of the spiritual condition of the young men engaged in houses of business, by the formation of Bible classes, family and social prayer meetings, mutual improvement societies, or any other spiritual agency.”
Today the YMCA has grown to become a worldwide organisation with 65 million members – each YMCA adapting to the needs of its own local community.
Williams was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1894, and after his death was commemorated with a stained-glass window in the nave of Westminster Abbey. Sir George Williams is buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral.