The Red Triangle Club for Young Gentlemen

The Red Triangle Club for Young Gentlemen

I recently happened upon an interesting article concerning the origins of the YMCA. In a book about Wealdstone Village, Harrow, it refers to an old corrugated ‘Mission Hall’ that once stood in the High Street which became the local YMCA.

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This story recounts the background of Mr Jabez Barnes who came to live in Hindes Road Wealdstone, in order to have access to the railway for London and his business in Birmingham. Mr Barnes was a Somerset man, born in 1860, he had been named Jabez because he was ‘born in sorrow’, influenced by the Bible.

In the early 1900s Wealdstone Village rapidly grew and when the war came in 1914, Jabez Barnes saw another need to be attended in training lads who were leaving school, and that they should become ‘gentlemen’. Mr Barnes had been a great admirer of Sir George Williams (also a Somerset man) but born 40 years before him. Sir George, with others, founded the Young Men’s Christian Association in 1844, starting in a building near St Paul’s Cathedral. Now, Mr Barnes decided to further this work and gathered his first band of young men together using a small wooden hut in Palmerston Road, just beyond the old chapel. This, of course proved to be too small and a larger one was built on the other side of the road. This larger wooden building was used for a while and later taken over by the Salvation Army.

The Youth Club was called the ‘Red Triangle Club’ and was the first such in the country. Another year or two and the energetic founder spotted just the right place to expand his ideas of a young men’s club. At the corner of Gordon Road and the High Street, the Primitive Methodists had their corrugated iron chapel (the Gospel Hall), but they had decided to join up with the Methodists in Locket Road. Accordingly this centrally situated building came into Mr Barnes’ eager hands, He set up a subscription fund which he called “Bobs Unlimited” and was able to raise thereby the funds to equip the old chapel into a first-class club, namely the Red Triangle, later referred to as the YMCA. In his ‘Prospectus’ for the funding, Mr Barnes assured subscribers (and guaranteed) that they would never get this money back! In the management we can find some well known names of local businessmen.

The new premises were opened in 1917 (Boxing Day) and seven years later a further appeal fund enabled necessary extensions and amenities to be provided. This included two bathrooms (there were few in the local houses). Jabez Barnes was firm in his principles of conduct. The Club motto was “Be Gentlemen”, and he had no time for diversions which might weaken the ideal. There would be no dancing, no cards and no theatricals in the YMCA, practices which were allowed in some other church halls. All kinds of games and interests were catered for, even a darkroom for photography, but evenings would end strictly at 10,30 with prayers. The Sunday talks by the president were extremely popular. By 1931, the Site had become really valuable to developers. So the frontage to the High Street was sold and a new YMCA was built at the rear. What then became of the old Mission Hall? This High Street landmark is shown in the 1897 Ordnance Map, and it still stands as a canteen (1976) for Messrs Adam Bros. and Burnley in Elmgrove Road. The new YMCA survived its turn and later succumbed to lack of support. It then became incorporated into the ‘Co-Op’ building, where the foundation plaques can be seen plastered over!

Lower Mead – With all this work on his favourite project, JB still had time to foster sport amongst other organisations for boys, He also supported the games and the growth of the Wealdstone Football Club. In fact, he initiated the buying of Lower Mead in 1922. Supporting the matches, he had a cheery word for the players at halftime when he would give them ‘acid-drops’! However, he was a strict Sabbatarian, and while he was in the management, he would not allow any kind of work on the grounds on Sundays. He was eventually succeeded by another staunch supporter, Mr HH Harrison. In about 1935, Jabez retired to live at Dursley in Gloucestershire, where he died only three years later.

Many, especially his ‘old boys’ will remember Mr Jabez Barnes with great affection, walking in the High Street, in top hat, morning dress and spats. He was made Justice of the Peace and delighted to refer to himself as JB-JP! He was a real exemplary Christian gentleman and certainly lived up to the reputation of that Jabez referred to in chapter four of Chronicles !, in that he was “ranked higher than his brethren”.

Extracted from ‘The Wealdstone Scene’ by HM Wilkins. Published in 1976 by the author.

JB-JC Article on pp’s 37-41. From accounts by former Old Boys of the YMCA.

Postscript: I had wondered– Did the ‘Triangle’ symbolise God, King and Country or was it simply the Holy Trinity? Subsequently, Stephen Milner (YMCA) has advised me that it meant “Body, Mind and Spirit”.

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The ‘Mission Hall’ in Wealdstone Village High Street

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