George Williams was born on 11th October 1821 in Somerset. After experiencing work in a drapery shop in London, he became concerned about the many young shop assistants who worked long hours and lived in cramped conditions.
At the age of 20 he embarked on a mission to change the lives of his fellow workers and share his Christian faith, and so started a prayer meeting and bible study group. This quickly became a regular gathering with other companies getting involved, and thus on June 6th 1844 it became known as the Young Men’s Christian Association and the first YMCA was born.
By 1870, a branch known as the Borough of Tynemouth YMCA had been founded. After an inaugural meeting on 7 June 1879 there followed weekly meetings in the Sons of Temperance Hall on Norfolk Street in North Shields. The YMCA soon grew in popularity and within a year larger premises were needed. Meetings were moved to 53 Tyne Street, and later to Camden Street in North Shields.
In 1920 the YMCA moved to a building in Bedford Street (which is still owned by the YMCA and now occupied by the Citizens Advice Bureau) where it remained until 1938, when it moved to the present building and the current registered office in nearby Church Way.
When construction work began on the Church Way building in 1937, the foundation stone was laid by Princess Helena Victoria. It was an exciting project because of the sheer size of the building, and of course the experimental nature of the whole concept, which was designed to bring both male and female youth organisations under one roof. Work lasted 18 months and the building officially opened on 19th September 1938.
Much of the cost was met from the Sir James Knott Memorial Trust Fund, and as such it was named the Sir James Knott Youth Centre.
The finished building was outstanding, with impressive views from the rooftop. It was the focus of a brand new experiment in youth work and attracted the attention of other youth organisations both in the UK and abroad.
The YMCA continues to thrive, and has for more than 140 years provided comprehensive programmes and services to address needs relating to Children and Young People, Health and Wellbeing, Personal & Social Development as well as the Arts.
The YMCA in North Tyneside is a leading local charity committed to making a difference to all the people it serves.
by Charlie Steel © 2012
Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, local historian Charlie Steel has lived almost all of his life in Monkseaton. His books “Monkseaton and Hillheads” and “Inns and Taverns of North Shields” are published by Tempus and are available in all good book shops.
All Charlie’s articles which are featured in Roundabout Monkseaton can also be found on his website www.monkseaton.info. Charlie also writes articles for Roundabout Tynemouth.
If you have any old pictures or photographs of Monkseaton that you would like to share then please e-mail Charlie at firstname.lastname@example.org.