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The History of the YMCA

Caring Gifts Spiritual Development 1
"The Y is a lively, safe place for young people to enjoy all sorts of activities, co-ordinated by well-trained and enthusiastic staff. Listening to the voices of the young people, the Y offers opportunities to get involved, build confidence and have a good time." (Terri Cochrane, Chelmer Housing Partnership)

The first Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) was formed by George Williams in St Paul's churchyard in the heart of London in 1844. The Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851 proved to be a milestone in the YMCA's history, as publicity leaflets distributed at the time helped to develop links with other countries. The American YMCA Movement was founded in 1851, and led the way in addressing physical fitness with gym openings and a wide programme of activities. It went on to invent both basketball (1891) and volleyball (1895).

We believe the Chelmsford YMCA started in 1877 in rooms above "Bonds", the shop now occupied by Debenhams.

Chelmsford YMCA moved to its present site in Victoria Road in 1927. During the 2nd World War we provided a canteen for the armed services, until around April 1943 when the new wing (built 1935) received bomb damage and the Board of Management had to find alternative accommodation until the repairs were completed.

The YMCA has continued to grow and expand the variety of programmes it has offered over the many years. In England, the YMCA comprises some 150 different Associations found in most cities and towns, each of which operates as a separately registered charity, and is responsible for raising their own funds. These YMCAs are often working with people at times of greatest need. Worldwide, the movement has over 30 million members in some 125 countries.