First record of YMCA work on current Greenhill site
and the YMCA
In 1844 George Williams, a young drapery merchant was living in London. The 1840s was a tough time, particularly in London. England was in the midst of the Industrial Revolution. This period marked a painful time for many workers, and the textile industry was one of the worst hit. Wealth, power and corruption were rife, there was a huge divide between the rich and poor and living conditions were notoriously low. Working conditions, even for young boys and girls, were inhumanly bad. With little free time and no place to go, many young people were lured into gambling, drinking and immoral living.
George Williams, a dedicated Christian made up his mind that something had to be done. He gathered together a few friends to form a society that met regularly and supported each other through the bad times and gain greater spiritual strength. The Group called itself the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The idea of a YMCA caught on quickly and by the 1850s the Movement had spread across Europe, America and Australia.
So influential was the Movement, within 10 years, 38 Associations had been formed across 8 countries. In 1855, 99 Representatives from those 38 Associations met in Paris and founded the International Alliance of YMCAs.
The meeting provided many firsts, including the first international gathering of Christian laymen. The meeting in 1855 inspired the first secretary of the Geneva YMCA, Henry Dunant, to use similar methods to inaugurate the International Red Cross.