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The YMCA Liverpool

Founded in London on June 6, 1844 by George Williams, the Young Men's Christian Association aimed to put Christian principles into practice by developing a healthy "body, mind, and spirit." These three angles are reflected by the different sides of the (red) triangle, part of all YMCA logos.

Liverpool can be proud of its heritage and since its early years 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. Meeting in the Institute on Slater Street their work soon grew and 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 the Mount Pleasant YMCA.

The building provided shelter for homeless people and run-away children and also developed night school classes for uneducated people to gain access to university courses. Sport was important and rambling clubs, cycling clubs and football teams were all formed. In 1880 it opened the best equipped gymnasium in Europe on Myrtle Street which was said to be one of the best equipped facilities on the continent. 

Mount Pleasant became a staging post for immigrants from the UK and Ireland who were leaving for the USA and it operated a bank for those individuals to send money home for their relatives. Throughout the First World War and the great depression, Liverpool YMCA survived the depletion of its resources and maintained a consistent service for the poorer working classes.

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.

In 1932 Liverpool YMCA opened Everton Boys Club, which also 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 all have their origin at the Liverpool YMCA.

The War Years: 1941-1946

Mount Pleasant YMCA continued to operate until 1941, but after bomb damage sustained in the Blitz, it was requisitioned by the American Army and used as a barracks for the soldiers in preparation for D-day. Following the successful landings the Americans 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.

From 1939 to 1945, the Liverpool YMCA delivered 18,620,316 meals homeless families, through 14,000 volunteers and provided 665,799 bed spaces.


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 but in 1956 Mount Pleasant reopened its doors with an extension at the rear of the building providing 90 beds for young men and women. A new refectory and commercial kitchen continued to provide meals.
By 2002 Mount Pleasant had become increasingly tired and needed a considerable injection 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. On August 13, 2007 the new centre was opened and today 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.

YMCA Leeds Street

Meanwhile the former Hostel building was bought by Hatters Group and in 2009 it opened as the company's biggest hostel offering 300 beds for travellers from all over the world. Around 35,000 travellers stay at the hostel each year.

Former YMCA Mount Pleasant, September 2018


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
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


Bob Edwards
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