100 Years of Changing the Clocks – Why do we do it anyway?

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This year marked 100 years of changing the time each autumn in the UK. Yesterday at 2am, on Sunday 30th October, British clocks reverted an hour, reverting to Greenwich Mean Time. It marked the official end of British Summer Time. We have to wait another 145 days (and about 18 hours at the time of writing) until the clocks will wind forwards again and we’ll gain a little more light each evening. For although the mornings get lighter for a time after the clocks go back (although at the time of writing it is still dark), the sun will set earlier and we will lose the light for the evenings.

How did the idea to shift the clocks back and forward begin?

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In the UK, ‘British Summer Time’ was the brainchild of a man called William Willett in 1907. Willett wanted to avoid people from ‘wasting’ the light of the summer mornings and published a pamphlet called ‘The Waste of Daylight’. He originally suggested that the time should be moved forward a total of 80 minutes, taking place over four steps, each week in April. However, this seemed too complicated, hence why we have the current system. Sadly, Willett died before any nation put his ideas into practice. Germany was the first to declare it, on April 13th 1916 and Britain began the scheme on May 21st, the first day of British Summer Time. In reality, Willett was not the first to suggest a change. In New Zealand, George Vernon Hudson, suggested the scheme to the Wellington Philosophical Society in 1895, although it was not trialled down under until 1927.

Why do it anyway?

It was argued that by moving the clocks forward in the summer months domestic coal consumption would be saved, which would mean there was more available for the manufacturing sector during World War 1.

Sandringham Time

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From 1901 to 1936 the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk ran on its own time zone, ‘Sandringham Time’, which was half an hour faster than other clocks. Albert, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) wanted to make the most of winter daylight for shooting and so established this bizarre tradition. Edward VIII aboolished it shortly before his abdication.

When do the clocks go forward again?

We will have to wait until Sunday March 27th until the clocks move forward.

 

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