Daylight Saving Time
Who came up with the idea?
Winter in the UK, whilst not always freezing, is a dark time. The shortest daylight hours fall on December 21st, when it doesn’t get light until around 8 am. Around 4 pm, the light fades, and night settles. In Scotland, it is slightly worse; the further north one lives, the shorter the daylight. Conversely, in the summer, it stays lighter in the north.
Daylight Saving Time aka British Summer Time
For me, the worst thing about our winters is not the cold but the lack of light, especially when it’s cloudy. On the last Sunday in March, we move our clocks forward one hour at 1 am and put them back to GMT on the last Sunday in October at 2 am. It makes the spring and summer evenings longer and gives people time to enjoy the daylight.
We use the saying - Spring forward - Fall back to remember which way the clocks will change.
There have been calls to move the UK time forward by one hour on a permanent basis. In fact, this was tried between 1968 and 1971. I had forgotten about this until I decided to write this post, and it popped up in my research. Those living further north of the country wanted to return to GMT in the winter due to the morning darkness and a concern that this created more accidents. During this period, it was named BST (British Standard Time); today, we call it BST (British Summer Time), although DST (Daylight Savings Time) is more official.
Over seventy countries around the world use DST. I thought I would take a look back at history and learn more about its origin. I always remember my dad telling me that it was brought about because of the World War, and I assumed it was WW2 as he was a boy then. He fondly remembered double BST, when 2 hours were added, making it light until around 11 pm in the summer. This saved energy and, during the blackout, helped to prevent lights from aiding German bombers in finding their targets.
It turns out that I need to go back to WW1 to see DST implemented. The change to our time system started with this war, but the idea came earlier, and the reason is interesting. We go back a few years to Chislehurst, a wealthy leafy suburb formerly regarded as being in the county of Kent until 1965. It is now part of Greater London and is ten miles south-east of Charing Cross.
Over the years, many suggested that people should adjust their daily routines to change with the length of daylight during the seasons. Being creatures of habit, the idea of getting up earlier in the summer and later in the winter didn’t go well with people. It was just too much to ask.
William Willett - the father of Daylight Saving Time
William Willett, a builder living in Chislehurst, suggested that the nation should change the clocks to suit the season. In 1907, he wrote a pamphlet titled The Waste of Daylight. His first idea was to change the time by twenty minutes at 2 am on the four Sundays in April, and in September go back correspondingly over the four Sundays. This was later changed to the one-hour change we are used to today.
Resistance was encountered, but some supported it, including Winston Churchill. However, it was WW1 that brought the first use of daylight saving time. In 1916, the change was made so that energy could be saved and to increase war production. An emergency law was enacted to change the time during the war. It became a permanent arrangement after the Summer Time Act was passed in Parliament in 1925.
There is a Blue Plaque on the wall of his former house, The Cedars (see photo above), in honour of William Willett.
If you have enjoyed this article, it would mean a great deal to me if you subscribe, upgrade your subscription, share my story or refer a friend. I appreciate all your support.
Roland’s Travels is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.