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The Y.M.C.A. 

The building
The YMCA building facing The Green and the War Memorial.
Right - the backs of Church Street properties, with the top of the Congregational Church above the roof-tops.
During WWI the Y.M.C.A. also ran some respite huts for soldiers.
1952 table tennis team
The Rushden YMCA table tennis team - c1952
Left to right: Malcom Reed, Phil Powell, Keith Miller, Peter Westley, Glyn Morgan,
Bob Adams, Derek Elsiegood, Fred Churchman

The Y.M.C.A. - Its Aims and Its Activities

The Young Men's Christian Association was born in "the Age of the Great Religious Societies"; that period in the latter half of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth centuries which also gave birth to such institutions as the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Religious Tract Society, various Missionary Societies and Sunday and Ragged School Unions. The first Young Men's Christian Association formed in London in 1844 consisted of twelve young men, the moving spirit being George Williams, a young man of 22. Three were Anglicans, three Congregationalists, three Baptists, and three Methodists. From its inception the Y.M.C.A. has been a layman's movement, interdenominational, and an auxiliary of the Churches, directing its efforts towards those not normally reached by ordinary Church agencies.

The aim of the Y.M.C.A. is to win youth to Jesus Christ, and to help them in the development of Christian character. In pursuing this aim the Movement has been led step by step to provide for the educational, social, and physical needs ot young men and boys, as well as for their spiritual needs.

Within five years of the founding of the first Association, a "dual membership" had been adopted consisting of Full Members, who are committed to the Christian way of life and therefore to witness and service, and Associates, who do not accept the obligations of Full Membership. Both share alike the facilities provided by their Local Associations, but only the former control policy and management.

The success of the Y.M.C.A. in London encouraged the establishment of Associations throughout the British Isles and abroad. As early as 1855 it was possible to summon the first International Conference in Paris, when the World's Alliance of Y.M.C.As. was constituted. In 1882 a National Union for England and Wales was formed which later became the National Council for Y.M.C.As. Y.M.C.As. in Scotland form a separate National Movement although co-operating closely with the National Council in many ways.

On 31st March 1949 there were nearly 400 Local Associations and Clubs in England, Ireland and Wales, with a membership of over 82,000, of whom nearly 39,000 were under 20. This total included over 7,000 girls and young vvomen. The World's Alliance of Y.M.C.As. number over 3,600,000 members belonging to more than 9,600 Local Associations in some 77 countries of the world.


Young Men's Christian Associations seek to achieve their aim through the example and influence of their Full Members, and through a fourfold programme of activities—religious, educational, social and physical—which is organised in an Association Building. Connected with most of these buildings are playing-fields for outdoor games and recreation : many Associations in addition have their own camping sites.

Activities are planned to make a special appeal to youth in adolescence and early manhood. Members and Associates are encouraged to undertake a balanced programme and not to limit themselves to one activity only.

A degree of self-government is maintained in all Y.M.C.A. work, both with boys up to 18 and with young men over 18, who are all encouraged to take responsibility for their own affairs, and to offer voluntary service. Three-year Training Courses are arranged for Voluntary Leaders

Throughout its history the Y.M.C.A. has worked in close co-operation with the Christian Churches and is represented on the British Council of Churches, and its Youth Department. Close co-operation also exists on a world level. Young men and boys are encouraged and assisted to become active members of the Church of their own choice.

Ticket for the Royal Visit in 1927

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 9th October, 1953, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Youth Building in Disrepair
Rain comes into the Y.M.C.A.

Table tennis

Aggression is the key-note here; a Y.M.C.A. member has just delivered an attacking forehand drive during a favourite session of table tennis.

Financial “cramp” and the imperative need for a new roof and flooring costing several hundreds of pounds, is threatening Rushden’s most popular rendezvous for teenagers – the Y.M.C.A. premises on The Green.

A hole in the roof of Rushden’s Y.M.C.A. centre is just one pointer to the general dilapidation of the premises which now confronts the members.
A hole in the roof
Finances are low and the potential cost of a new roof and flooring alone runs into several hundreds.
Rain dripping in through the roof has made the 250 members – the boys outnumber the girls by eight to one incidentally – literally sit up and examine their finances with alacrity. The picture is not reassuring.

There has been a sliding balance ever since the end of the war. The reason is not hard to find: Without a fulltime secretary the centre is not entitled to a Headquarter’s grant; subscriptions range only from 3s. – 6s. for the boys and 2s. 6d. – 5s. for the girls, a year, hardly the cost of light and heat. True, they pay a little extra for the games they play, but by and large the centre has to rely upon the generosity of its vice-presidents.

Apart from the rental of the factory beneath the premises the Centre has existed almost entirely on the profits accumulated during the war years by the Women’s Auxiliary.

During those years the women served hot suppers every night to British and overseas troops visiting the premises and the nett result was the installation of shower baths and a comfortable bank balance.

Bazaar helps

Since then, however, there has been nothing on the credit side – except perhaps the annual Christmas bazaar in which the tradesmen of the town co-operate by contributing their goods for sale.

When Mr. Philip Mould took over as part-time secretary 18 months ago, he viewed the dilapidations with a wary eye. Apart from a little redecoration about four years ago there has probably been nothing structurally done to the Centre since it was opened 26 years ago.

“Last year we had the roof patched up and the contractor said he was afraid he could not do it again as the slates had had to be cemented in. Last week another 900 tiles had to be re-nailed – and that was on only part of the roof. It’s now started to rain through,” he said.

The cost of a new roof will be about £200 and it must be done this winter. Two new floors – both in the top and billiards room – are required. They have been re-patched and renovated until they are now beyond further repair.

Well attended

Immediate reaction has been to hold a jumble sale; organise a mile-of-pennies between the members and abandon the television fund which had already reached £40. But it will take many more such efforts to raise the necessary money.

It is now that the centre gets its best attendances of the year. It is open every night between 6.30 and 10 p.m., with the exception of Sundays, but throughout the winter you will find about 100 youngsters there nightly. Members come in not only from Rushden and Higham Ferrers, but the outlying villages of Souldrop, Stanwick and Irthlingborough.

Two more potentials knocked on the door the evening the “Echo and Argus” was there – a pair of under 18s from Irthlingborough – Brian Stevenson and Brian White. The centre is, of course, open to troops at all times and there are quite a few American regulars who have started a craze for draughts among the “locals.”

Many games

The two Brians were invited to make a preliminary inspection before completing their enrolment forms. They discovered a football practice in session under the guidance of Mr. Albert Knight; table tennis, billiards, snooker and darts.

In the canteen Valerie Lovell and Pam Jeffrey served cups of tea and coffee with snacks, chocolates and cigarettes. All the girls who are members take it in turns to staff the canteen.

They learned too that the Rushden Y.M.C.A. has first class football and cricket teams; a very popular music club on Wednesday nights, conducted by Mr. Don Wildman; a whist drive every month and a drama group which Miss M. Orchard coaches at her own home. And the president, Mr. J. H. Willmott, free from farming commitments, looks in most winter evenings.

In short the Y.M.C.A. offers the best possible facilities in the best possible environment for young people. Its work, however, is so quiet and unassuming as to go unnoticed by many. We focus the limelight on it this week that they may count on your support.

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 2nd March 1956, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Only Themselves to Blame?

Do the young people of Rushden have only themselves to blame if youth club facilities in the town do not meet their requirements? In this “Echo and Argus” investigation of the question, a reporter has visited the local Y.M.C.A. and spoken with the secretary, Mr. Philip Mould, and his board of management, which is responsible for running the centre.

From these talks it would appear that boys and girls of the town are hard to please, and, on the whole unwilling to help themselves.

Mr. Mould, who has been secretary for over three years, finds that boys and girls tend to “drift” from one club to another, seeking novelty.

In an effort to stabilise the young people’s interest in the association, he formed an “under twenty-one” committee, so that teenage groups might have a chance to say what they wanted and put it into operation. But members lost interest after the first few months, and the committee was disbanded.

Exactly what the young people want in the way of improved facilities neither they nor anyone else seems to know, said Mr. Mould.

The Y.M.C.A. itself is the moment used as a social centre for six days of the week. Young people may go in to play darts, table-tennis, billiards, snooker, chess, draughts, etc. Entrance may be obtained from the age of 14 upwards for a nominal fee, and for a few pence members may use the games provided. There is also a canteen staffed by lady members.

No conditions of membership are imposed, and the centre is inter-denominational.

124 Members

Mr. Mould says that if there is room at Rushden for an “open club,” he feels that a greater number of people would make use of the Y.M.C.A., which is not too obviously a religious organisation.

At the moment there are 114 males and ten female members on the books and most of them are in the 14 to 20-year-old age group. Members may bring friends in any evening and this facility is much used. Quite a number of girls use the centre as guests, but are not prepared to pay the few shillings to enable them to belong.

The Thursday night jazz club is most popular, and again, a large number of people attend who are not members. There is also a football team which meets on Tuesday nights for training. Cricket and tennis teams were started, but failed owing to lack of proper facilities.

refreshments served
Playing Billiards, table tennis or even talking can be thirsty work and the
young members of the Rushden Y.M.C.A. retire to the canteen for a
quick ‘cuppa’ before resuming their social activities.

In the secretary’s view, even if the association had room to expand its premises and so provide proper facilities for this sort of thing, and generally widen activities, it would not help the position of the club as a whole.

He thought there would be greater membership just for specialised sport activities, but no further demand on the club socially.

Membership has fallen off considerably in the last few years owing to lack of facilities, but both Mr. Mould and the chairman, Mr. D. Rawlings, thought the facilities the young people wanted could not be applied by a club.

As far as dancing was concerned, the Windmill supplied a first class band and a large floor at a reasonable price and the young people would far rather go there than have their own dance hall. Films and lectures had been provided, but had not received good support from members. TV at home proved another strong draw.


Regarding the youth committee’s hope of eventually forming an open club at the Moor Road School, Mr. Mould expressed the opinion that they were being “optimistic.”

Summing up, opinion seemed to be that young people, who really needed a club, were well catered for and had already found what they wanted. Those who were still dissatisfied would continue to be so whatever was provided for then, as they were of the type who liked everything laid on for them as cheaply as possible and were not prepared to make an effort to help or amuse themselves.

Note: for more on the debate see Youth Club

This float by the YMCA was in the 1958 Trade Show Carnival
Back row (l-r): William Yates AKA Bill Bones, Chas Allen, Gill Walding, ?, Judy Nunley, Dick Smith (Irchester), Brian Munns ,
Molly Winter, Veronica Miller, David Rice.
Front row: Joy Walding, Dave Green, Anthony ?.

If you can name more people in the pictures, or have memories
to share, we'd be pleased to hear from you.

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