Liverpool can be proud of its heritage in being a pioneering, entrepreneurial and socially responsible world class city. Since its early years Liverpool has lead the way in social reforms. In 1846 a group of people decided to get together and tackle the high levels of alcoholism and homelessness that plagued Liverpool.
Liverpool was no different than any other city as child poverty, crime and rough sleeping were common place – but what arose was a organisation that the City should be proud of. Even if you have no interest in history and you are passionate about Liverpool, you should read with pride about the achievements of the people of Liverpool and the YMCA.
1846-1875: The Early Years
Meeting in the Institute on Slater Street their work soon grew so they moved to a building on Renshaw Street. Following the D.L. Moody revival meetings of the 1870’s, a large amount of money was raised which provided the YMCA with the first purpose built YMCA facility in the world. Most people in Liverpool know the Mount Pleasant YMCA.
1875-1941: Responding To World Events
The YMCA provided a host of services throughout this turbulent period. In 1880 it opened the best equipped Gymnasium in Europe free for the working classes in Myrtle Street and was said to be the best equipped facility in Europe.
At Mount Pleasant it continued to provide shelter for homeless people, run-away children. It developed night school classes for uneducated people to gain access to university courses, rambling clubs, cycling clubs, football, debating clubs and much more. Its funds came through membership subscriptions from several hundred citizens. It became a staging post for immigrants from UK and Ireland leaving for the new world and operated a bank for those individuals to send money home for their relatives.
Throughout the 1st world war and the great depression YMCA Liverpool survived the depletion of its resources and maintained a consistent service for the poorer working classes. Many of its members and staff joined up in the Great War including the deputy CEO. It survived from year to year on the donations of members and a sizable legacy of Mr Samuel Smith a former Chair and President of the YMCA from 1888.
During the great depression the Gymnasiums opened its doors to the long term unemployed providing free services to the poorest communities in Liverpool.
It was during this time in 1932 Liverpool YMCA opened Everton Boys Club, which had a coffee bar and youth centre. From here martial arts and boxing clubs were formed. Its members excelled in regional and national competitions. These clubs are still around today under different names and in different places but have their origin at the YMCA.
1941-1946: The War Years
Myrtle Street Gym was requisitioned by the British army in 1939 and was never again to be used as a gym. It was handed back to the YMCA in a dilapidated state and was sold and demolished to make way for the Women’s Hospital.
Mount Pleasant continued to operate until 1941, and after bomb damage sustained in the Blitz, was requisitioned by the American Army and used as a barracks for the soldiers in preparation for D-day. Following the successful landings the American army used it as a staging post for injured servicemen prior to their return to the States.
With no buildings of their own the YMCA rented property close to Lime Street Station, not a safe place to be during a war, but remained in business offering cheap accommodation to the thousands of service men and women coming in and out of the city throughout the war.
What is astounding is that from 1939 to 1945, the YMCA delivered 18,620,316 meals to (bombed out) homeless families, through 14,000 volunteers and provided 665,799 bed spaces. Through its work from tea vans on the docks it kept up the morale of the Anti-aircraft guns, welcomed returning sailors from the arctic convoys and mourned the ships that failed to return.
1946-1956: Out Of The Ashes
In 1946 Myrtle Street Gym was sold to the Women’s Hospital and Mount Pleasant was a in a very poor state of repair. The next 10 years was a battle to gather the money to develop the centre and re-open the doors. In 1956 Mount Pleasant opened the doors. with an extension at the rear of the building providing 90 beds for young men and women, a refectory and commercial kitchen, meals were provided.
Following the lifting of a compulsory purchase order placed on the YMCA, the YMCA was able to consider its future. Mount Pleasant was becoming increasingly tired and needed considerable amounts of money to bring it up to modern standards.
In September 2002, the Trustees decided that the best way forward was to sell Mount Pleasant and develop a new centre on Leeds Street. This was achieved, and on 13th August 2007 the new centre was opened. It houses 70 formerly homeless people in 40 en-suite rooms and 30 one bed flats. There is extensive support programmes relating to health, education, employment and basic life skills. We also run outdoor activities and provide opportunities for our residents to participate in campaigning for justice and other exciting initiatives.
As we look forward to the future we are convinced that we should continue in the way we have proceeded since 1846 – driving forward new exciting and innovative schemes that are the cutting edge. We want to share our success with others to achieve this we want to not just meet the highest standards but set them.
Leading Lights in our History
Profile: Mr Freddie Allan:
Much is said about youth empowerment and involvement, but Freddie was a classic example.
As a teenager, Freddie was in the Rambling club becoming its leader in 1888. He later went on to work for the YMCA eventually becoming the Chief Officer. After Freddie retired he became a Trustee and eventually the Chair of trustees. Freddie Allan died in 1950. He witnessed the YMCA go through both world wars and the great depression and was an active member of the YMCA from his youth to his death.
All we know about Freddie is written in our reports, but we are sure that his relatives still live in Liverpool. If you are related to him or know of Freddie, then do get in touch
This is by no means exhaustive. If you have any stories then please do get in touch There are countless stories that need to be catalogued of astounding achievements by little known individuals. If you have a relative or a friend who has been involved with YMCA Liverpool, a story or a great memory, then please let us know and we will publish it on the website.
The YMCA Movement is now one of the biggest Christian Charities in the World. Today, the YMCA works in over 120 countries with 30 million members Worldwide.
A snapshot of our History
- 1846 : YMCA Liverpool was formed
- 1860 : World’s largest Gymnasium was opened in Myrtle Street
- 1880 : Myrtle Street Gymnasium was presented to the YMCA
- 1877 : YMCA moved into its existing Grade II Listed building in Mount Pleasant (and became the first purpose-built YMCA in the World)
- 1920 : The Newsboys Home and Home for Friendless & Destitute Boys established by YMCA
- 1939 : YMCA opens canteens on Liverpool Docks
- 1949 : YMCA National Council ask Liverpool YMCA to take over the Newsboys Home
- 1950 : Liverpool City Council assumed responsibility for above Home
- 1955 : Sir John Moores donates land beside YMCA for Hostel building
- 1958 : Six storey 108 bedded hostel added.
- 2007 : Moved to Leeds Street
As you can see, the YMCA Liverpool has seen many changes since its inception in 1846. The aims and principles have not changed over the years; we still provide support and encouragement to people in need – maybe our current client group is different but they still present with the same problems.