Young sports fans enjoy life at the YMCA in city

The Young Men’s Christian Association, to give its full title, was a formidable force in football, cricket, boxing, table tennis, snooker and billiards.

It occupied premises in George Street and Walton Street as well as many other buildings during its 150-year existence in the city.

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Picture 1 shows the Lord Mayor, the Rev Tony Williamson, chatting to members at the opening of the boxing gym in 1982.

More than £17,000 had been raised to convert the former slipper baths in Catherine Street, East Oxford.

YMCA management committee chairman Mr L N Parsons paid tribute to the boxing club’s chief coach, Mick Ganley, and his assistants “whose faith and enthusiasm persuaded a rather conservative management committee to go in for this project”.

In Picture 2, we see Oxford YMCA boxer Henry Dean, right, on his way to beating H Carter, from a Yorkshire boys’ club, in national championship finals in 1955.

Picture 3 was taken at the opening of the Walton Street base in 1960, with the Sheriff of Oxford, Councillor C A Cooke, setting up the balls for a snooker game, watched by Mr A Harris and Mr H Clarke.

Table tennis features in Picture 4, with the Oxford team – left to right, P Dunford, M Bradley and J Blackwell – preparing to play Banbury YMCA at George Street in 1955.

Picture 5 was taken in 1964 at the Walton Street gymnasium where boxing champion Percy Lewis and YMCA trainer Alf Gallie were coaching young boxers.

Boxing was also centre stage in Picture 6, with Derek Peacock and Larry Green in action during a novice training evening in Walton Street in 1955.

As we have recalled, the Oxford branch of the YMCA was formed in 1847 and was based for 21 years in Norfolk Street, St Ebbe’s.

After that, it met at various places in the city before opening its own premises in George Street in 1891. It also ran events at buildings in Walton Street and Iffley Road.

After a hugely successful period, financial problems arose and the YMCA halted all activities in Oxford in 2000. The only YMCA branch now in Oxfordshire is at Henley.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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