Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)YMCA
TitleArchive of the National Council of YMCAs (Young Men's Christian Association)
Extent55 linear metres
Thumbnail (Click this image to open a larger image)


DescriptionThe archive includes the minutes of the YMCA National Council, dating from 1882, together with minutes of many of its Committees. These Committees include the Officers Training and Nomination Committee (formerly the Secretarial Appointments Board), Finance and General Purposes Committee, War Emergency Committees, Education Committee, Physical Education Committee, Community Services Committee, Special Services Committee, Migration Department Executive Committee and a number of others.

In addition, there are minutes of a number of associated organisations including Inter-Council Committee (formerly the Committee for British Business, a joint Committee with the Scottish and Irish Associations), 1884-1970; the International Hospitality League/ Red Triangle Hospitality League, 1918-21; and the Council of Voluntary War Work, North Africa and Central Mediterranean Committee (a body with representatives form YMCA, YWCA, Catholic Women's League, Church Army, Church of Scotland, Salvation Army, Toc H), 1943-48.

There are substantial quantities of material relating to the YMCAs war work during the Great War which consists of various series of compilations of folders (often referred to as the First World War Green Books). These include photographs of war emergency work at home and abroad; printed reports, pamphlets, cuttings and some manuscript correspondence and notes about war work (organised by place or subject); binders of correspondence, printed material and photographs relating to military camp work; and compilation volumes of typescript records relating to the YMCAs war work including lists of workers.

The archive also includes a large collection of binders which contain printed and other materials relating to both local YMCAs and to the district unions. The materials in these binders (which date from the mid 19th century up to about 1922) include annual and conference reports, by-laws and magazines, advertising literature, published histories and programmes of events. They provide an enormous amount of information about the activities of these branches which ranged from religious, social and educational programmes to health education projects, youth clubs, libraries, gymnasia and other sporting facilities, training and other courses for young people.

As well as acquiring printed material of local YMCAs, the National Council at one time encouraged these bodies to deposit their records centrally at its headquarters. As a result, the archive includes minutes, financial records, photographs and other material of a small number of local YMCAs and of unions of local YMCAs. These include, for example, minutes of the North Western District Union of YMCAs (1904-73) and of the Yorkshire Union of YMCAs (1915-76); and records of Penrith YMCA (1889-1964) and North Liverpool YMCA (1885-1936).

Complete sets of the various sequences of national YMCA journals, including YMCA Monthly Review (1884-89), The Red Triangle (1917-23) and the British YMCA Review (1936-39, 1948-61) have been deposited. Other publications such as national annual and conference reports, printed publicity and other literature are also available.

In addition, other deposited records include records of the YMCA Women's Auxiliary, archives of the Association of YMCA Secretaries, which comprise minutes, conference proceedings, reports, journals and newsletters (1890-1980s); and a large collection of printed literature and publications of the World Alliance of the YMCAs and of national and international bodies of YMCAs around the world including North America and Asia. While this latter category of material is not unique, it constitutes an important collection which is not easily accessible elsewhere in the country.

The archive also includes a small quantity of papers of individuals connected with the YMCA.
ArrangementThe collection was arranged and catalogued as part of a Wellcome Trust project between 2021-2023 by Matthew Goodwin, Project Archivist, Phil Tromans, Archvies Assistant, and volunteers.

The collection is arranged as follows:
YMCA/1: National Council of YMCA's administration
YMCA/2: Local YMCA Associations, Divisional Unions and Regions, and Council records
YMCA/3: YMCA programmes
YMCA/4: YMCA and the Armed Forces
YMCA/5: Events, public affairs, and fundraising
YMCA/6: Publications
YMCA/7: Photographs
YMCA/8: Slides
YMCA/9: Audio-visual material
YMCA/10: Objects and textiles
YMCA/11: History of the YMCA
YMCA/12: Special Collections
YMCA/13 YMCA Women's Auxiliary
YMCA/14: Association of Secretaries of Great Britain and Ireland
YMCA/15: World Alliance of YMCAs
YMCA/16: Y Care International

Previously the collection had been sorted and provisionally organised into a number of sections so as to allow access and retrieval. Former references are recorded in the current catalogue.

The collection was arranged in the following temporary sections:
Section A: Printed materials, 1866-1923;
Section B: Early local YMCA association reports, 1838-1890;
Section C: Sample printed literature of local associations and divisions/regions of the YMCA and of the National Councils of Scotland, Ireland and Wales
Section D: Records of local associations, divisional unions and the National Council of YMCAs, 1893-1973;
Section E: YMCA publications, 1847-1996;
Section F: Multi media audio/visual materials, 1960s-1979s;
Section G: Records of the YMCA Women's Auxiliary, 1918-1973;
Section H: Records of Association of YMCA Secretaries, 1890-1991;
Section I: Printed literature of YMCAs of the World, 1920-1990;
Section J: YMCA minutes, 1882-1979;
Section K: First World War Green Books, 1860-1922;
Section L: Legal files and bundles relating to YMCA property and association;
Section M: YMCA and British Forces in Germany/British Army on the Rhine;
Section N: Artefacts;
Section P: Textiles;
Section Q: Ephemera relating to YMCA centres, buildings, schemes;
Section R: History and anniversaries of the YMCA;
Section S: George Williams and family;
Section T: Papers of YMCA Officers;
Section Z: Book collection (transferred to the Cadbury Research Library's Rare Books collection).
Access ConditionsOpen apart from the minutes which are subject to a 25 year closure period and material closed due to data protection issues. Some audio-visual material is closed as the Cadbury Research Library does not have the necessary equipment to play all this material.
DocumentYHA and YMCA Resource Guide.pdf
YMCA collections at the Cadbury Research Library.pdf
Access StatusPartially closed
Closed Until01/01/2087
Administrative HistoryThe YMCA, which originated in regular prayer and bible study meetings of young male shop workers, was established in 1844. George Williams, a draper's assistant, is acknowledged as its principal founder, and from very small beginnings the association quickly expanded with other branches opening both in London and elsewhere. Branches in Manchester and Leeds began in 1845, and by 1855 there were 40 local YMCAs outside London.

Although established as a non-denominational evangelical Christian movement, it soon began educational work and provided valuable opportunities for social and physical activities for its membership. For example, a series of very successful lectures was initiated in London in 1845 (held in Exeter Hall in the Strand, an important venue for meetings and concerts, from 1847), and local associations began libraries and introduced evening classes. In 1881, the London YMCA acquired Exeter Hall. These premises were used, from 1882, by the National Council of YMCAs, which was formed in that year to coordinate the work of all the local associations in England, Wales and Ireland. The YMCA organisation also rapidly expanded abroad, and in 1855 the first world conference of YMCAs was held in Paris where representatives of eight countries from Europe and North America met and the World Alliance of YMCAs was constituted. In the last 20 years of the nineteenth century, associations were set up in Africa, Asia and South America. The World Alliance now represents more than 100 countries and, while maintaining its Christian outlook, is particularly concerned with world development issues and with peace, justice and equality.

The work of the YMCA during the two world wars is well known. During the First World War, when the red triangle emblem was adopted by the movement, the major focus of the YMCA's work was the provision of YMCA huts. These were put up in this country and in the war zones of Europe and Africa to provide food and a place of rest for soldiers. The YMCA also set up the National Women's Auxiliary which recruited large numbers of volunteers for its war work. During the Second World War, the mobile canteen, known as the "Tea Car", was introduced to supply food and drinks to troops, other war workers and those made homeless by bombing.

The association is also famous for the familiar and ubiquitous YMCA hostel. The YMCA provided accommodation for young men from the later nineteenth century, and the first purpose built hostels were opened in Cardiff and London in 1912. After the second world war, the provision of traditional hostels, together with YMCA holiday centres and hotels, expanded, and the association still provides accommodation for young people in hostels, self catering flats and other centres.

Since the 1950s, the YMCA has focused on youth work, on health education and physical fitness and on training, and, although initially established for young men (which soon encompassed work with boys), the YMCA also provided opportunities for women and girls from the 1960s. From the 1970s, the association has particularly concentrated on the needs of the homeless, disadvantaged and unemployed and is now one of the largest youth and community organisations in the country. National developments and programmes of the last few decades include its National College to provide courses for youth and community work; Y Training Services, a professional training company which runs, for example, programmes for young people with special needs; the establishment and expansion of permanent centres to provide outdoor activities; the introduction of YMCA Day Camps for children during school holidays; and the establishment of an overseas development agency, Y Care International. Locally, YMCAs run youth clubs and social centres for young people, fitness classes, job clubs, restart programmes and courses for the unemployed, and drug and other health education projects.

Source: YMCA publications
AcquisitionThe first deposit was received in 1998 from the library at the YMCA George Williams College and this comprises the bulk of the material listed in Sections A to I The second deposit was received from YMCA England at Walthamstow in 1999 which comprises most of the material in Sections J to P. Further deposits have been received from YMCA England on a regular basis.
Archival NoteThe collection was fully catalouged between 2021-2023 as part of a Wellcome Trust project by Matthew Goodwin, Project Archivist.
Related MaterialDetails of other YMCA related collections held at the Cadbury Research Library can be found listed in the PDF in the ‘Document’ field.
Associated MaterialsPapers of the YWCA (Young Women's Christian Association) are held at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick, Coventry.
Papers of the Scottish National Council of Young Men's Christian Asssociations (YMCA) are held at the National Archives of Scotland, reference: NRA 23273 Scottish YMCA
Oral history recordings, created as part of a series of events to mark the YMCA's 175th anniversary in 2019, can be found at:
Publication NoteYapp, A. K 'The Romance of the Red Triangle' London: Hodder and Stoughton [1919] and 'Told in the huts; the Y.M.C.A. gift book ...' London: Jarrold and Sons, [?1917] are available to see online through the internet archive at Archive copies are available for consultation in Cadbury Research Library.


    Some of our most significant collections