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History of YMCA

YMCA is over 170 years old yet our mission today is as relevant as it was in 1844. From humble beginnings in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral, YMCA has grown to be the largest and oldest youth charity in the world whilst still remaining true to the principles of why Sir George Williams founded the charity – the desire to love, support and develop those around us.

YMCAs have had the privilege of being around for so long because they have constantly adapted to the needs of the communities in which they serve.

This approach is one which enables YMCA to truly reflect the needs of our society – not through top down direction but by responding at a grass roots level; by listening to the young people and families. Click here to read about our youth-led projects.

History of YMCA Bournemouth


The first mention of a YMCA in Bournemouth was in a national report produced in 1879. In these early days it was housed in rented rooms above the J E Beale shop in Old Christchurch Road.


In the early 1880’s it moved to rented accommodation in St Peter’s Road and the work gradually expanded, with the Cairns Memorial Hall, named after Earl Cairns, being completed in 1886. In those days the total cost of operating was just £1,500pa.


By the early 1900’s a hostel had been completed, one of the first gymnasiums in the country had been added.

YMCA Bournemouth took quite a big step in 1921 when with aid of a mortgage of £5,500 they bought the freehold of the premises in St Peter’s Road. In 1930 those premises were sold on and the current site that stretches between Westover Road and Hinton Road was purchased.

The first five floors of the front part of this new development were erected with HRH Princess Mary laying the foundation stone on 28th June 1930.

The building cost the princely sum of £37,500! A fundraising campaign for the new building was started and as part of this, Princess Helena Victoria came to open a bazaar. Some 20 years later in 1955 there was another royal visit when the Princess Royal, Princess Mary daughter of King George V came to Bournemouth.

Another major milestone was reached in 1964 when the sixth floor was added to the Westover Road hostel and the Hinton Road Youth Club at the rear was completed. Twenty years later in 1984 the flats complex in Hinton Road was built with yet another royal visit when Princess Anne presided at the opening ceremony.

In 1988 the youth club in Hinton Road was converted to Teddy’s Place Day Care Nursery and five years later three basement rooms in Westover Road were refurbished to provide the Lifewise Fitness Suite, a coffee bar and the Hope FM radio studio, although the last mentioned has recently moved to the Hinton Road end of the site. Between these two additions, in 1991, a total refurbishment of the premises took place at a cost of £1.8M – a frightening sum when compared to the original building cost!


In recent years, the work has continued to expand with the addition of the Fusion Youth Centre in 2000 (a partnership project with the Bournemouth Youth Service and two churches), the Trafford House move-on accommodation block and taking over the trusteeship of Pokesdown Youth Club.

In 2006, YMCA Bournemouth bought Sandyholme, a retreat and Activity Centre in the village of Studland in the Isle of Purbeck and expanded its Family Work taking over the management of Pokesdown Children’s Centre.

In 2007, management of YMCA Winton was taken over to offer room hire for a range of activities including conference facilities, table tennis rooms and dance studios.

In 2009, YMCA Bournemouth took over the management of The Junction Sports and Leisure Centre in Broadstone

In 2015, YMCA Bournemouth has partnered with Townsend Youth Centre and gone through a complete rebrand. They have had an increase in supported accommodation options and introduced a direct referral scheme for new residents.

From humble beginnings YMCA Bournemouth has therefore become a £4.5 million turnover, multi-centred operation positively impacting many hundreds of people’s lives each week across the Bournemouth conurbation.

From humble beginnings YMCA Bournemouth has therefore become a £4.5 million turnover, multi-centred operation positively impacting many hundreds of people’s lives each week across the Bournemouth conurbation.

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