In 1936 a group of local people who were disillusioned with the complete absence of meaningful activities and support for young men in the Streatham area decided to act.

Starting small by renting a small church hall behind Brixton prison, the Knights Youth Centre was born.

Originally calling upon local churches to provide motivated young men and women to support the venture, enough resources and volunteers were gathered to rent a large old building at no 5 Streatham Hill (at the junction of Brixton Hill/Streatham Hill).

Image right: “Older members arrange a Christmas meal for older Clapham Park residents 1963”

The Knights (as it was previously known) was one of the first types of open youth work projects established nationally and grew quickly – opening most evenings.

In 1939, the war intervened and the Centre’s activities were vastly reduced as most of the volunteers were drafted into the armed forces! The Centre suffered bomb damage during the war and eventually fully reopened in 1945. However the centre was in a very sorry state!

Image left: Soup lines – Civil Defence 1959
From the mid 1950’s until 1962, The Knights Youth Centre would provide two double decker buses of young people and volunteers to take part in the annual national civil defence exercise. This was a scheme to train the emergency and armed services how to cope with a large scale attack upon the civilian population. Knights members loved it.

This did not deter the growing group of driven volunteers who decided to open new youth clubs in the area using the same model of building a voluntary team of young adults and older members around a small experienced core.

Very much the same model the Knights uses today over 75 years later!

New clubs were opened in local schools, including Streatham Hill, Balham, Clapham, Mitcham Lane (Streatham Youth Centre) and Streatham Common.

Image right: Every year from the early 1950’s until the late 70’s the Knights would organise huge summer camps or residential holidays where young people got out of London to have a wonderful experience. Many of our young people were part of families unable to afford a holiday or never travelled far from their inner city homes. 80 years on, we continue that tradition.

Three of these centres including Knights are still thriving today – over seven decades later – with their own purpose built centres. – a testament to the vision and drive of those early pioneers.

The Knights was always seen as the founding Centre and in the mid 50’s, a vision was developed for the Knights to own and build their very own purpose built youth centre.

Image left: A day trip to Brighton with the youngest group known as ‘The Juniors” – still known as “the Juniors” in 2017!

With help from many friends and members raising money, enough was collected to lease some land from the London County Council at Streatham Place and to build a Youth Centre from scratch.

The Knights Youth Centre was built and formally opened on its present site in 1959.

Image right: Tug of War 1964. Each year the member clubs of the Knights Association would hold joint events – one of the most competitive would be the sports day held at the Tooting Bec race track.

The Knights had already begun running clubs and programmes for girls, which quickly led to the realisation that all the programmes and activities should be integrated for all young people!

Knights Youth Centre (KYC) has now been transforming lives for more than 80 years around the Clapham Park area of Lambeth.

Image left: A meeting of the Knights ‘Boys Committee’ held at the old crumbling Club House in 1947. 70 years on, membership participation is still vitally important.