YMCA Mendip was founded under the name of Wells YMCA in October 1892, by a group of men who met in a Coffee House in the Market Place in Wells where rooms were rented to run Prayer Groups, Bible study and talks.
Over the years the Association rented various rooms in the City and on 19th October 1910 the Foundation stone was laid for the first property to be owned. This was on the corner of the High Street and Union Street.
In 1943 the Association moved to Chamberlain Street and owned what is now St Cuthbert’s Lodge. This building was sold in the 1950s due to the lack of funds needed to repair the roof. The Association then operated from a single storey concrete building in Chamberlain Street. After many years of little activity, bar the building being rented to the Probation Service; the building was sold in March 1989 to Mendip District Council and is now a public car park.
In November 1989 a research and development worker was appointed with the brief to research the needs of the local community and make recommendations on future developments.
Wells YMCA became re-established, but changed its name in 1991 to “YMCA Mendip”, to reflect the fact that its work was starting to develop further afield. It adopted the same boundaries as Mendip District Council, and they remain the same today.
Project work started in 1991 from a small building in the Blue School grounds and this was the Headquarters base until 1995 when the present Old Glasshouse building was opened in January 1996.
Throughout the 90’s, staffing levels gradually increased, as new project work started; this reflected the expanding nature of YMCA Mendip and its work.
In December 2001, City of Wells Housing Association handed management of Spencer House in Chamberlain Street, Wells back to Knightstone Housing Association (the Registered Social Landlord) and requested that YMCA Mendip assume the managerial responsibility. Spencer House has 8 bedsits and provides supported housing for adults with complex needs, with a home and support to develop life skills, access specialist support and prepare to move on to independent living.
In April 2002 YMCA Mendip opened its Frome Foyer as the Managing Agent, for YMCA England who were the Registered Social Landlord. The Foyer houses 12 self-contained flats, 2 emergency bed spaces (with shared facilities) for young people aged 16–25yrs. The Foyer provides a stepping-stone to independent living with comprehensive support to assist young people with basic life skills and help to access training, education, employment and other learning opportunities.
The Community Building at the Foyer opened in 2003 to provide a Routes One Stop Shop, which was originally developed in partnership with Connexions. This project enables direct access to information, advice and learning opportunities for young people.
In April 2016 YMCA Mendip took management of the purpose-built Street Foyer, with 9 supported bedsits, 1 emergency bed space and a further 8 self-contained flats for young adults 16-25yrs.
2017 was a momentous year of growth and celebration. A successful tender to provide housing and homeless support within South Somerset saw YMCA Mendip welcome 22 new staff and set up 6 additional properties, to provide homes for young people 16-25yrs. The success continued when 3 years of funding was secured, which allowed sustainability and further development for our youth work; with 9 weekly youth clubs and project work within the community. 2017 also saw YMCA Mendip celebrate its 125th Anniversary, with a celebration being held in Wells Cathedral.
Since late 2017, YMCA Mendip and YMCA Bath Group have been collaborating, when both trustee groups agreed to work towards a merger.
Due diligence was completed and from April 2018, both YMCAs have been led by a single Chief Executive. April 2019 brought a single senior leadership team together who are now closely working within the organisation.
The two YMCAs are still legally separate; and the trustees are still seeking advice as to the best organisational structure for the future (particularly with regard to YMCA Mendip’s Registered Housing Provider status); however this is an exciting time for both YMCA’s, as we come together with a shared vision, to better serve the communities in Mendip, South Somerset, Bath, Bristol and Wiltshire.
To find out more about the history of the YMCA movement please visit: